At Big Sand Lake Lodge, all fishermen are required to use barbless hooks. Why? Because all fish are catch/photograph/release other than small skillet-sized ones prepared for shore lunch. Big Sand Lake is 70 miles long plus the many nearby lakes with outpost camps and fly in possibilities are teeming with trophy size fish in all four grand slam categories: Northern Pike, Lake Trout, Walleye and Arctic Grayling. However, we don’t take trophy size fish for granted. It takes years for our monster pike and trout to grow into giants. Barbless hooks cause significantly less stress and injury to the fish plus there’s no reason not to release them back into their native habitat to live out their lives or perhaps get caught by another lucky fisherman.
I remember my first fishing trip to Northern Manitoba and being told that all hooks must be barbless. “I don’t have any barbless hooks,” I responded. My guide simply smiled and pulled out his pliers, quickly flattening the barbs on the lure at the end of my line. During the course of that trip, we flattened the barbs on just about everything in my tackle box. In addition to practicing good conservation, I learned that barbs on hooks aren’t really necessary in order to land fish, big or small. Have the right tackle, set your drag properly, keep a taut line, stay calm and in the boat and the biggest fish can be landed. Fishing barbless made me a better fisherman.
Here’s the thing about fishing in a place like Big Sand Lake. It’s as much about catching as it is fishing. As we all know, fishing in spots like Wisconsin and Minnesota (or anywhere other than a heavenly place like Big Sand) requires lots of luck, lots of patience. Sometimes the fish hit and sometimes they don’t. I remember trips to Northern Wisconsin with my two sons where we couldn’t get a bite for three days much less catch a fish. That meant when you did get a fish on, you were so excited and anxious to land him that you probably made a mistake or two in playing the fish or attempting to get him in the boat. And if it was that once in a great while trophy size fish, your chances of not making a mistake, even with those barbs on your hooks, were pretty slim.
At Big Sand, you have the luxury of being able to truly enjoy the strike, the play of the fish, the catch/photo/release. If you goof up, so what? Other hungry monsters are out there waiting, some who have never seen an artificial bait in their long lives. Like anything else, you become a good fisherman with practice and you’ll get enough practice catching the big ones at Big Sand until your arms ache. And your fish stories won’t be about the one that got away, but the ones you caught and released—with photos and/or video to prove it.
However, wishing, dreaming, fantasizing, procrastinating about a great fishing trip doesn’t make it happen. It requires some action on your part. Call Big Rick and reserve a spot for 2016 for you and your buddies or you and your family. You won’t regret it. Big Rick’s number is 1-800-348-5824 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell him Gary sent you.
by Gary Cole