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The new holder of the Idaho state record for northern pike is no stranger to big fish. Thomas Francis moved west in 2005 from Boston, and “was pretty big into striper fishing back then,” he told Sport Fishing magazine.
Now settled in Post Falls, Idaho, near the Washington border, Francis has specialized in casting jumbo plugs for the local specimens. “I can’t stare at a bobber all day, and the steelhead are not big on chasing big lures,” he said. That generally leaves northern pike. Francis fishes for them as often as he can, from ice-out in the spring until it returns in the fall. “I catch 20- and 30-pound pike on the regular,” he said.
When Francis was fishing Hayden Lake on March 21, a northern attacked his 11-inch hard-plastic swimbait and ended up in the record books. The fish struck as the lure touched the bottom and buried herself, he recalled — though not for long. At one point in the intense five-minute fight, the northern flung itself into the air.
Taylor Hale, Francis’s fishing buddy, was answering nature’s call when the hookup occurred when he heard Francis say, “this fish is different.”
“I knew it was a big fish, so I zipped up my pants,” said Hale, and he went to assist in the catch.
The Idaho Fish and Game department called it “a true monster of a fish.”
The two were fishing from Hale’s 16-foot Tiderunner. Francis was using an extra heavy irod baitcasting rod with a Daiwa Tatula reel, 80-pound braid and fluorocarbon leader.
Once the fish was in the boat, the pair set out to find a scale. The one at the dock only went up to 30 pounds, but eventually they found a certified device and got an official weight of 40.76 pounds. The previous record, 40.13 pounds, was set by Kim Fleming in 2010 on nearby Lower Twin Lake.
Francis declined to say what make and model of swimbait he was using, because the company was planning an announcement in the coming days and wanted to make a splash. “I’ve been working with this bait company for a while, and they’re pretty excited,” Francis said. Meanwhile, Francis and Hale have taped an episode of Adrian Dean’s Scales N Tales podcast and will no doubt share more of their experience with the northern pike of northern Idaho.
How do they stack up against the striped bass of the East Coast? “I’d have to go with the pike,” Francis said. “Stripers are strong, but I’m into the teeth.”