An Aikens Legend: Three Generations and a Triple Crown
Aug. 02, 2017
It took almost 20 years of coming to Aikens with his dad, but Nate Siegal finally has a fishing story to rival the legendary tale of his late grandfather, Saul.
Of course, Nate has had many memorable adventures and epic catches at Aikens with his dad, Mike, and brother, Jake, over the years. But it wasn’t until this past May that he completed a career Master Angler triple crown in spectacular fashion.
Ironically, Nate first got on the board for Master Anglers nearly 20 years ago with the most elusive of Aikens’ big three: a 35.5-inch lake trout.
He added a 28-inch walleye the same trip (followed by several more on subsequent trips), but a Master Angler pike eluded him.
“I had never caught a trophy pike, and we have targeted them every year,” Nate said. “We love to cast and retrieve, so every year we go up we spend some time casting the bays. We’ve had some luck in the past––my dad caught a huge 45-inch pike trolling. But I never really got that big one. This year we were just on it. It was crazy.”
The first day of their trip saw high winds making much of the lake virtually unfishable, but they pushed through and struck gold in the evening near the falls.
“I was casting a Waterwolf Shadzilla, and it was really cool because the casts are only about 20 feet in the falls there, so there’s not a ton of room between you and the fish,” Nate said. “This thing came up from below and behind it and just obliterated it. We had a good fight and when we saw this thing we were just kind of floored.”
The big pike measured 42.5 inches, completing Nate’s career Master Angler triple crown.
But he wasn’t done yet. The next afternoon back at the falls, he hooked an even bigger fish.
“Since it’s such a narrow spot at the falls, I was maximizing my cast length and doing this long sweep of the rod right by the boat to keep the lure moving. Within 10 feet of the boat, in full view, this giant pike comes up from behind again and inhales the lure.”
The fish hit in five feet of water, but quickly ran into deeper water with a couple long runs while their guide, Ben, was in full boat control mode with the current.
“This is the fish of a lifetime. Let’s get this thing!” Ben yelled during the battle.
“I had just caught a 42-incher the day before, so when Ben said that I knew it was a special fish. It was a super exciting experience, especially watching it hit in shallow water so close to the boat.”
After a long fight, Nate eventually landed a massive 43-inch pike with an incredible girth.
“I was pretty damned stoked,” said Nate, who’s from New York but moved to Utah six years ago and loves camping and fishing in Utah’s mountain lakes. “Now that I’ve got the big three, maybe next year I’ll go for burbot… maybe not.”
For good measure, Nate also added another trophy lake trout two days after his personal best 43-inch pike.
Achieving the triple crown at Aikens Lake, where Nate and his family share so many memories, made the experience even better.
“The fact that my dad and his dad have done fishing trips here together, and that now I get to enjoy Aikens with my dad, is a truly special part of it,” said Nate.
Nate never had the chance to visit Aikens with his grandpa, but he knows his grandpa’s tale well. Saul was fishing for walleyes in September with a fine-tuned approach, using just 4-pound test line to maximize sensitivity. All of a sudden, he felt a bite that was not a walleye and began to battle a massive fish.
The fish pulled out tons of line, but Saul expertly fought the monster with his light line and eventually caught a beautiful, 24-pound lake trout.
“As my grandpa deteriorated late in life and went through dementia, he had a handful of things he would say repeatedly,” Nate recalled. “One was obscure poetry. And another was his lake trout story. Within an hour of being together he would have told you five times, ‘Did you know I caught a 24-pound lake trout on 4-pound test?’”
“The guy went from being a genius to dealing with dementia, and he was 85 years old, but that was one of the things that stuck with him through it all.”
The significance of memories shared with family is not lost on Nate, nor is the fact that the Aikens Experience is about much more than fish.
“In addition to catching fish, you’re on the boat together for 8 hours. If you’ve got some stuff you need to talk about, it’s going to get talked about. A couple days disconnected from the world can be great.”
And, since the arrival of his baby girl Lillian eight months ago, Nate hopes to continue the Aikens tradition with the next generation.
“I look forward to bringing my kids up here someday,” Nate said. “I feel fortunate I get to do that with my dad, and hopefully we can bring Lillian someday.”