Aiken Lake Legend: A Lucky Hat and the Best Pike Fishing of 2016
Apr. 20, 2017
Dennis Munson and his sons, Jake and Eric, had a great first trip to Aikens in 2015, with Eric catching not one but two Manitoba Master Angler pike (41 inches or bigger). When they returned home to Solon, Iowa, Dennis discovered he’d accidentally left behind his lucky fishing hat––a gift from his son Jake that he only wears on Canada fishing trips.
There was only one thing to do.
“We had to go back,” said Dennis, who promptly booked a return trip for the following June of 2016. “It was an expensive hat.”
Apparently, it was also a productive hat. Dennis and his sons caught at least one Master Angler fish every day of their trip, and enjoyed arguably the best pike fishing of the entire season at Aikens. The trophies started, surprisingly, with a whitefish.
At 10am on Day One, Jake landed a fat 22-inch whitefish, as well as the bragging rights (and proof) that go with it.
“He was so excited because he was going to get a mug at the award presentation that night at dinner,” said Dennis, who was too modest to mention they also caught 70 walleyes between 20 and 24 inches that day. “Getting that mug was the most important thing of the trip to Jake. And then he ended up getting another trophy later in the trip.”
Day Two saw Dennis catching a 41-inch Master Angler pike, the largest pike of his life, while casting a gold Nitti Spoon.
On Day Three, Jake’s “other” trophy arrived in the form a beautiful, 41-inch pike caught on a cisco on a sunny afternoon. Ironically, the group actually saw an even bigger pike in the same bay before Jake settled for the 41-inch trophy.
Dennis decided to go back to the same spot on Day Four, the group’s final day in paradise. Sure enough, some 40 minutes before shorelunch, Dennis had a huge strike on his trusty Nitti Spoon.
“We’re three in a boat. I was in the middle, everybody was busy casting toward shore, so I cast out in the middle of the bay away from the shore,” Dennis recalled. He immediately knew the fish was big.
“We were using light tackle, 8-pound test line with the drag set loose. It took a couple, three, really good runs. And it was taking line. Ben, our guide, fired up the engine to run it down so I wouldn’t run out of fishing line,” Dennis said. “We fought it for 10 or 15 minutes. The whole time I was thinking it was going to get away.”
Dennis ultimately won the battle, capping off his trip with a 45-inch, Master Angler pike with a bulging belly reflecting the abundance of forage in Aikens Lake. The massive pike was the biggest fish caught at Aikens in 2016, and, of course, earned Dennis yet another Master Angler mug.
“My mugs sit proudly on a bookcase on my den,” said Dennis, who appreciated the entire Aikens Experience in addition to the phenomenal fishing.
“It’s the ever-present welcoming attitude that starts when you exit the plane and never ends. The entire staff, which is well-selected and well-trained, guides who make fishing fun and easy,” he said. “The size of the lake is perfect––not too small for serious fishing and not too big for novices. The breakfasts, the shore lunches, the dinners, the evening fishing with the dock staff making sure your boat is ready, and the bar that gives you a chance to meet fun and interesting people to share a fishing story or a joke.”
Dennis and his family actively embraced the friendly camaraderie Aikens is known for by asking another group if they’d like to meet up for shorelunch one day. The new friends ended up eating fresh walleye together on three different days.
“The people are so friendly there,” he said. “There are also lots of couples. I’ve taken my wife to fishing resorts where she’s the only woman in camp. Of all the places I’ve been, I think Aikens is the best couples resort.”
Aikens also has the best mushroom soup, according to Dennis, and an abundance of wildlife that also create special moments and lasting memories.
“We were having shorelunch one day and we had a caribou that was 30 feet away from us,” Dennis said. “I had never seen a caribou before. We’ve also seen moose there before and lots of bald eagles.”
Who knows what Dennis and his boys will see, or catch, when they return this summer? That’s the intrigue. The given, is that they will enjoy their time together.
“I always go back to a scene in the movie City Slickers where they’re sitting around the campfire talking about baseball and someone says, ‘I don’t understand you guys and all this stuff about baseball, it’s not even real.’ The guy responds, ‘When I was growing up we fought all the time, we couldn’t agree about anything. But we agreed on the Yankees. And that was real.’” Dennis said, before applying the lesson to fishing in his life. “For me, the bond with my kids is a huge part of fishing. You go through teenage years, or the rebellious years, and you might have a fight or two. It’s the fishing trips that we never disagreed on.”
“Every year we have that in common. We can talk about when we want to go and what species we want to target, and how. The fishing is real.”
Editor's Note: Not to be left out of the big-fish action in 2016, Eric caught a huge lake trout this past year. After catching two Master Angler pike in 2015, he was gracious enough to let his Dad and brother Jake land all the Master Anglers in 2016 ... but Eric couldn't resist catching this beautiful laker.