An evening of kayak fishing with the family turned into a record evening for a Barkhamsted woman recently.
Leslie Slater and her husband were looking to “take the edge off” of another hot day without power following Tropical Storm Isaias [in August] by taking their kids fishing at one of their favorite spots in Colebrook [CT] in the West Branch Reservoir.
“I was jigging a Rooster Tail for trout when all of a sudden I had a huge hit,” Slater recalls. “It pulled hard right to the bottom. It almost broke my pole in half. Then with all of the dead weight, I thought that I had lost the fish and snagged the bottom.”
It wasn’t the bottom she was snagged on. It was a 46-inch long, 29.0-pound Northern Pike. Slater reeled in the massive fish, and somehow managed to get it into her kayak.
“Never in my life did I expect to see a freshwater fish of that size come out of Connecticut, the adrenaline rush pulling in a fish that size was awesome,” Slater said. “I still can’t believe I pulled it into my kayak without flipping over or having my toes bitten off.”
Slater didn’t intend to keep the fish, however her attempts to revive and release it failed. At that point, hoping to make something good of the situation, she decided to see if it might be a state record.
“The next adventure was trying to get this monster weighed with a certified scale during a major power outage and COVID,” Slater said. “We had many staring at us as we carried in a fish of that size. One deli was willing to weigh the fish but it was too big for the scale, the head and tail hit the counter. The reaction we received from the deli customers was priceless.”
Fortunately, DEEP Fisheries Division biologist Edward Machowski, who has spent the past two decades managing Northern Pike in Connecticut, heard of Slater’s catch and was willing and able to assist.
“I called Leslie shortly after learning of the catch and her dilemma in finding a certified scale,” Machowski said. “Leslie’s excitement and enthusiasm over catching this monster pike was infectious and I knew we had to help her. Thankfully, Ryan Craig, the owner of the Berkshire Country Store in Norfolk had equal enthusiasm in helping out and agreed to weigh the pike using his certified scale in the deli. In the end it tied the state record, and was a very fitting end to such a memorable catch!”
Connecticut has been tracking records since the establishment of the Trophy Fish Award program in the early 1960s. Initially, the program was to assist biologists with obtaining data on some of the state’s largest fish. Currently anyone catching a potential record can pursue the heaviest fish (needs to be retained and weighed on a certified scale) or the longest fish, for those who prefer to release their catch (can be measured and must be released alive).
People catching a fish shy of state record status can still earn a Trophy Fish Award pin for their first, fifth, and tenth fish meeting the size criteria. Details about these records and the angler recognition program are available on the DEEP Fisheries website (www.ct.gov/deep/fishing) as well as in the 2020 Connecticut Fishing Guide. If you have questions, contact the Fisheries Division by phone at 860-424-3474 or by email at email@example.com.
For Slater, the whole adventure was made all-the-more special by the fact that her family was with her when it happened.
“My favorite part of that fishing adventure, besides catching, was that my husband and kids were there to share the experience,” she said. “That catch will forever be a positive memory of 2020 for me and my family!”
DEEP Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Conservation Mason Trumble applauded Slater’s historic catch.
“Congratulations to Leslie on her record-tying catch!” Trumble said. “I love that Leslie and her family sought relief from this challenging time in nature, and were rewarded with an experience they’ll never forget! We look forward to recognizing Leslie’s accomplishment at our annual Trophy Fish Award Ceremony, hopefully held this spring.”