A Trophy Lake Trout Through the Ice

An ice fisherman from New Hampshire recounts his catch of a lifetime.

As a member of the New Hampshire Army National Guard approaching an upcoming assignment, I made sure that I would have the entire ice season to do what I love most; chase trophy lake trout. After waking up excessively early every single day since January 1st, my alarm sounded off on the morning of Saturday, February 18th, 2023 and I contemplated whether I even wanted to go fishing. A special feeling came over me as I tirelessly stumbled out of the house and coerced myself into getting on the hardwater. My gut told me to go to a spot that I fish religiously, where’d I’d soon have a day of fishing that will never be forgotten.

Proceeding a late arrival and lengthy setup, I began jigging. Off to a somewhat slow start, I still managed two 18- to 20-inch trout and a respectable 6 pounder. Unfortunately, though, the action became slim to none as the day went on. However, I had been returning to this spot for weeks after consistent encounters with large fish. Knowing this, I remained persistent and powered through the brutally slow day to the best of my ability, but eventually ended up falling asleep. I awoke shortly thereafter to an extremely eerie feeling in the air. Groggy and slow-moving, I decided to pack things up… but not before a beauty of a trout meandered into view beneath me.

I threw every last piece of tackle I had for nearly an hour, and finally, got the fish to commit. I felt the bite and thought to myself, “I’d rather lose this fish now than at the bottom of the hole after seeing him.” So, I drove the hook home multiple times, which kicked off a chaotic, near 30-minute battle that felt like an eternity.

Following the initial hookset, my pole slammed down into the ice like nothing I have ever felt before. I immediately knew this fish was one of the ‘good ones,’ when I couldn’t move him. Whether tangling in submerged structure or banging his head off the ice to try and knock the hook out, this fish took me for everything I had. Every time it approached the hole, it would use that oar-like tail to escape back down to the depths all over again. On more than one occasion, I looked down at the line peeling off of my reel and frantically panicked as I was well into my backing. During the fight, I found myself yelling “HEY SIRI…” in an attempt to call my buddies so they could help calm me down. Needless to say, Siri could have cared less, and I wasn’t relaxing anytime soon.

After relentlessly playing the fish and using the drag system to my advantage, I landed it by my lonesome! Quite literally, a gigantic weight was lifted off of my shoulders as I finally got my hands on the fish and came to realize what I had just accomplished. It was an indescribable moment that I have been chasing for all these years. Many anglers that are fortunate enough to experience catching these big, beautiful, trophy lake trout get them on tip-ups; I am blessed to have fought this fish on a rod and reel.

At 16 pounds and 34.5-inches long with a girth of 20 inches, this lake trout was a certified giant.

From start to finish, I was shown the true strength and intelligence of these old fish. This is such a respectable milestone in my angling career that will surely be hard to beat. Anyone that knows me, knows that any chance I get, I am on the ice chasing these fish and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do out of all the outdoor activities that I participate in.

I am beyond grateful for these opportunities and most importantly, for this iconic fish which was safely released to swim another day. Please note that after I landed this fish, any time in between measurements and pictures, the fish was held in the water so it could breathe. It is strongly encouraged that anglers familiarize with and utilize proper fish handling practices. This results in successful catch and release, which helps to maintain our beautiful fisheries and allows us to witness these dinosaurs in the state of New Hampshire. As sportsmen, we owe it to these animals in order to maintain populations of future trophy lake trout.

This trophy lake trout was clearly eating well and took quite a bit of convincing to eat my lure.

I had been telling myself since the beginning of the 2022-2023 season that this would be the year I successfully pull a trophy lake trout through the ice in New Hampshire. It was an all around grind, but it was the win I had been looking for.

I would like to thank everyone that has been a part of this journey and shared these moments with me. And lastly, thank you to On The Water for sharing my story, which I wrote in order to show my true gratitude and honor towards this fish. Here’s to chasing 20 pounds!

Tight lines and stay safe.

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