Many Maine anglers spend their whole lives fishing without ever landing a fish that others would categorize as a “trophy” catch.
Scott Picard doesn’t have that problem.
Over the past eight years, the avid Madawaska fisherman has enjoyed fantastic luck in his home water, Long Lake.
In July 2003, Picard landed a 7.84-pound landlocked salmon. The next January, he topped his personal record with a 7.86-pounder. And in July 2006, he caught a monstrous 11.24-pound salmon that landed him (and the fish) on the cover of the state’s fishing rule book.
That 11-pounder was surely the fish of a lifetime; Picard said at the time he’d have a hard time topping that one.
Earlier this week, Picard showed that he hasn’t lost the knack for catching big fish. And although the salmon he caught wasn’t nearly as large as the 2006 behemoth, it was still an impressive fish … and it moved to No. 2 on his personal leader board.
“I made a career change in February in 2009 which required me to train out of state for 11 months,” Picard explained in an e-mail. “Consequently, I could not fish for most of the 2009 season and all of the 2010 ice-fishing season.”
That doesn’t mean that Picard forgot everything he learned about fishing, however. Upon his return to the St. John Valley, he was eager to get back onto the water.
“That being said, I have been trying to make up for lost time,” Picard wrote. “This year I have caught a handful of respectable salmon.”
“Respectable” until Tuesday, when Picard caught a fish that exceeded that standard and vaulted straight back into the “trophy” category that the angler has become so familiar with.
On Tuesday Picard rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m., ate some breakfast and headed to his ice shack to catch some native bait — the hefty “jack” smelts the lake is famous for.
“Smelt fishing was slow, but by sunrise I had a dozen smelts swimming in my five-gallon pail,” Picard wrote.
Then Picard went over to visit an on-lake “neighbor,” who convinced Picard that the frigid weather shouldn’t discourage either of them from setting up traps and fishing.
“I headed home with a good idea of where I was going to fish. I picked up my dog, Orvis, and loaded the truck with my gear and was on my way,” Picard wrote. “I knew there was a large salmon lurking the waters. Twice last week I had seen a gargantuan salmon swim by my jigging lure as I peered down at him from the comforts of my ice cabin.”
Still, seeing is one thing. Hooking is another. And landing can be the hardest task of all.
“I was hoping he had not left the area [and] I set up my flags strategically where I thought the fish might pass,” Picard wrote. “I was set up by 8:30 and my first flag popped shortly thereafter.”
Picard approached the flag, watching for tell-tale signs that a fish was still hooked. What he saw wasn’t encouraging.
“The reel was not turning, not a good sign,” he wrote.
But sometimes, first impressions are wrong. And when Picard pulled the insulated cover out of the hole in the ice, he quickly learned that he was in for a fight.
“[I] held the line [and] it felt like a piano string,” Picard wrote. “I thought this might be the fish I saw last week. Now I just had to land the mammoth at the end of my line.
“I gingerly hoisted the salmon toward the hole. It was apparent he had taken line from the bundle accumulating on the ice. I was antsy the whole time, because I only have 15-pound test [line] on my flags, and this big boy could snap the line with a couple good kicks of his tail,” Picard wrote.
That didn’t happen. But that doesn’t mean the fish gave up quickly. And after a seven- or eight-minute tug-of-war, Picard finally saw the fish swim past the hole.
“The girth was almost the size of the hole!” Picard wrote. “I tried several times to get the salmon’s head into the hole but every time I would do so he would peel out line.”
After an additional 10 minutes, Picard successfully reached into the water and hauled the fish out onto the ice.
“Then the celebration began!” Picard wrote. “I got on the phone and began calling my friends as I packed the flags for the day. This is the whole reason I fish: To catch a Big Boy!”
Picard had the fish registered on a state-certified scale and learned that the 27-inch long landlocked salmon weighed in at 8.55 pounds.
Not a record. Not even a personal best.
But a true trophy, to be sure.