Monster Pike of Phelps Lake: 40 over 40

Mike Quinn has been a fishing buddy of mine for nearly 20 years. Yet each time I send a message asking him if he wants to join me on a fishing expedition, he has forgotten the clouds of mosquitoes, the driving rain and the heavy loads over portage trails—he’s described one of our trips as “borderline miserable.”

Our trip last spring to Phelps Lake in Saskatchewan fit that pattern.

Anderson Clipping was our guide, and took us to Perfect Bay. It’s called “Perfect” because it has the qualities that hold monster pike in early spring. It’s relatively small at 10 surface acres. Two small creeks drain into the rear of the bay. It’s quite shallow, perhaps 8 feet deep maximum. On the day we were there, wind kept warm water from escaping the closed mouth of the bay. In fact, on the main lake waves were increasing in intensity.

We fished for several hours and Mike and I each caught a couple of pike over 40 inches. While pike this size are pretty common at Phelps Lake, each one was a wonderful opportunity to yell encouragement to the another, exclaiming the beauty of the particular fish caught, and reminding Anderson of his skill in maneuvering us into a position to catch another one.

Shortly after 11 a.m. we made a common-sense decision to pull the boat into a corner of the bay protected from the wind and get coffee out of the vacuum bottle and take a break. Mike was in the bow with a line in hand prepared to tie to a shoreline tree. Suddenly, the boat stopped dead. It had hit a rock neither Anderson or Mike had seen. Mike was pitched head first over the bow into 3 feet of cold water—the next time I ask Mike if he wants to go, it will be one of the moments he will have to forget to agree to come.

Anderson took us back to Wolf Bay Lodge eight miles through 4-foot waves; the weather had taken a turn for the worse since we left after breakfast. It was a rough ride, but done with skill and care. I’ve fished many times with Anderson, and he is among the best guides I know in any weather condition.

Mike and I caught many of our trophies on fly rods. We used 8-weight rods with matching lines and reels. Our leaders were tapered to 9 feet and 10- to 20-pound-test at the tippet. We fastened titanium leaders to the tip. When I hooked a big pike on a commercially prepared cable tippet leader, the knot between the leader and cable came undone. The titanium was tied to the monofilament with an Albright knot and the fly to the titanium with a clinch knot. Our best flies were zonker strip flies, often called “bunnies” because the zonker strips are narrow bits of rabbit hair.

We also caught pike on a variety of lures we threw with baitcasting gear. For really big pike like those we caught at Phelps, a muskie-style rod is appropriate. And on fly-in trophy-pike trips—as is with Wolf Bay Lodge—I’ll carry two-piece rods, as they are easier to carry in a floatplane. I have a Bass Pro Shops Pete Maina Signature Series, 7-foot-6-inch rod and a St. Croix 7-foot Premier. I have options with these two, depending on the lures I use.

Mike’s lure of choice was an ugly chartreuse spoon about 5 inches long. In the week we fished Phelps Lake, Mike caught dozens of pike on it and many of them exceeded 40 inches. Midweek though, Mike lost it. Anderson and I had a good chuckle as Mike rifled through his tackle, bemoaning the loss of his prized spoon. Down in the bottom of his box, he found another.

After several days watching Mike catch big pike on the ugly spoon and teasing him about his choice, I pulled one from my box of the same color. There’s a limit to pride if my buddy is catching pike the size that he was bringing in. Within a few hours and several nice pike later on the ugly spoon, I cast it across a windy point. Something big grabbed it and headed toward the far end of the bay. Pop—the line broke and I lost the spoon.

In addition to the spoons, Mike and I caught pike on jerkbaits like the Long A or Rogue and on topwaters, like a full-size Zara Spook or Poe’s Jackpot. Jig-n-pig combos worked when the pike were a little less aggressive. For me, a 1/2-ounce tandem blade spinnerbait with a red and white trailer was a steady producer.

Over the last 30 years, I’ve fished in many pike fishing lodges scattered across North America. Among them, the prospects for a trophy at Wolf Bay Lodge are better than any I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. On different trips I’ve even caught two pike over 50 inches, both on fly rods. One of my trips to Phelps was even featured on Pete Maina’s TV show, The Next Bite.

Wolf Bay Lodge is not a luxury outpost. On my first trip, there was bear spray in the outhouse. On my last trip, each cabin had its own indoor facilities. Meals are wholesome and filling, served family-style. There are no hot tubs or open bars. Yet, if you want to catch multiple northern pike over 40 inches with some over 45, you won’t go wrong with a trip here.

In our week at Wolf Bay Lodge, Mike and I caught several hundred pike and more than 40 exceeded 40 inches. Results like that will mean my friend will have forgotten his dunk in the lake next time I call.


For more information…
To secure a trip to Wolf Bay Lodge, contact Brent Osika, the owner-operator at, at 866-220-1346 or visit