Nikiski angler lands lunker from Stormy Lake

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2007

WASILLA - "There is a creature alive today who has survived millions of years of evolution without change, without passion, and without logic. It lives to kill. A mindless eating machine, it will attack and devour anything. It is as though God created the devil and gave him jaws."

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While this quote was used to describe a great white shark in the 1975 film "Jaws," it is also an apt representation of a toothy terror recently caught in Nikiski.

"I've caught a lot of 18- to 24-inchers, and a few 30-inchers, but nothing this large in freshwater. Looking in its mouth, I think you could probably have dropped a football down its throat," Steve Chamberlain said, in regard to a prodigious northern pike he caught while fishing in Stormy Lake earlier this month.

Chamberlain said he knew the fish was a beauty the second he landed it. Its blood-red fins and irregular rows of golden spots stood out on its elongated, amber-colored body, but he said, initially, he didn't think his pike was as large as it eventually turned out to be.

"My first thought when I saw this fish was 'Wow, that's a big one,' but I thought it would only weigh around 13 pounds. When I got it home and put it on the scale, that's when I started getting excited," he said.

Since hand scales aren't the most accurate, Chamberlain brought his pike to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna where the lake lunker ended up weighing 20.41 pounds and measuring 41 inches long.

"This is definitely a monster for this area," Chamberlain said.

The state record for pike is a 38.8-pound fish caught by Jack Wagner while fishing on the Innoko River in 1991, but as opposed to the deep water bodies of this Yukon-Kuskokwim region, the shallower lakes of southcentral Alaska tend to produce smaller fish. Chamberlain's pike may be the largest ever recorded on the Kenai Peninsula.

"We don't track pike out of this office, but it's the biggest I have seen, and he'll get a state trophy certificate for his catch," said Rob Massengill, fisheries biologist at Fish and Game.

Massengill added that beyond the bragging rights of landing such a large fish, Chamberlain also can take solace in knowing he aided the aquatic environment. Pike are native to Interior and Western Alaska, but not the Kenai Peninsula. Here, they have been illegally released and threaten native fish species, which have not had thousands of years to develop a balanced coexistence with the voracious predator.

"Pike are an invasive species in Southcentral Alaska that can knock out populations of cohos, Dolly Varden and rainbow trout," he said.

Massengill said pike in some lakes in the Soldotna Creek drainage decimated the native species until they were the only fish left alive, then they turned to feeding on whatever they could find, even each other. There is a Fish and Game record of 12-pound pike with a four-pounder in its stomach, and some peninsula pike have been found with ducklings and other waterfowl in their bellies.

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