Princeton downtown waitress Deb Grothe will be the first to say the approximately 12-pound northern pike she caught on Jan. 27 is no record breaker.
But Grothe said that catching it was quite fun since it was the biggest one she has ever caught in her approximately 25 years of fishing. It was only in the last two years that she began ice fishing, and that was how she got the northern on Jan. 27 at Lake Fleming northeast of Aitkin.
Grothe also made it clear that much of the big deal for her in catching the fish was that it entitled her to have a framed 5” x 7” picture of her with the fish hanging on the so-called “Wall of Shame” in the cabin of Bob and Bobbi Blackbird. The couple’s cabin is located along the shore of Lake Fleming about 150’ or so from where Grothe caught the northern.
Catching a big enough fish in the eyes of the Blackbirds gets the angler in their fishing group the right to be on their “Wall of Shame.”
Grothe and her significant-other Jim Grothe had slept overnight on Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Blackbirds’ cabin. At about 8 the next morning, Deb and Bobbi went down to the lake and placed six fishing lines in fishing holes.
The two women then spent the next two hours between the fishing holes and the Blackbirds’ cabin. Deb and Bobbie were at the fishing holes at about 9:30 a.m. when they noticed the tip-up flag activate on a Deb’s line.
Bobbi told Deb to “go ahead and take it,” and Deb tugged on the line to set the hook into the fish’s mouth and then began pulling the line up. The fish didn’t fight until it got near the hole and then put up a little fight before coming smoothly out of the hole, Deb said.
She remembers saying, “Oh, oh my God,” when she saw the fish’s size which was close to a yard long. Jim and Bob had been watching all this through a window in the cabin and when they saw the women waving toward the cabin the men brought down a camera to record the event. Bob Blackbird, an experienced fisherman, did not have a scale to weigh the fish, but estimated the northern’s weight to be close to 12 pounds.
Once the photo-taking was over, “we put the fishy back in the water,” Deb said. She explained that she was following Bob’s instructions that if anyone in their group should catch a fish like a northern that was more than five pounds, they should return it to the lake. Bob’s reasoning is that a northern that size would usually be a female and be full of eggs so it would be in the interest of all anglers to let the fish have a chance to propagate more fish in the lake, Deb said.
She remembers Bob telling her that most people who catch a fish that large would keep it, and that is why he believes a lake “gets fished out.”
The previous biggest fish that Deb had caught in her life was an eight-pound northern while ice fishing, and she once caught a five-pound walleye in open water.
But none of those fish have brought her quite the triumph she had Jan. 27. She had told someone at the Blackbirds’ cabin the night before, that she didn’t think she would ever get to have a photo of herself with a big fish on the cabin’s Wall of Shame.
Blackbird, contacted last Thursday, said the criteria for getting on his Wall of Shame, which now has about 20 photos, is a guest at his cabin must catch a fish weighing more than 10 pounds.
For those interested in how Deb caught her northern, she used a sucker minnow as bait and let it down about 4’ below the surface.