September 03, 2020
An escape from a hot house without power following Tropical Storm Isaias last month led to a spot in the state fishing record book for a Connecticut woman.
Leslie Slater of Barkhamsted said she and her husband decided they needed to "take the edge off" after another day without power—and air conditioning—so they took their children on an evening kayak fishing trip to the West Branch Reservoir.
"I was jigging a Rooster Tail for trout when all of a sudden I had a huge hit," she said, according to a news release from Connecticut Fish and Wildlife. "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."
That "snag" ended up being a 46-inch, 29-pound northern pike. The weight tied a 40-year-old state record (Joseph Nett, 1980, Lake Lillinonah), and had it been released it would have been long enough to beat the state catch-and-release record (45.75 inches, Daniel Kornegay III, 2009, Housatonic River).
"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 said she intended to release the fish, but wasn’t able to revive it. So, she decided to see if the fish would challenge the weight record. That became almost impossible, since finding a certified scale was difficult with power outages from the storm and already-in-place Covid-19 restrictions. A deli shop was willing to weigh the fish but it was too big for the scale. "The head and tail hit the counter," Slater said. "The reaction we received from the deli customers was priceless."
Biologist to the Rescue
State fisheries biologist Edward Machowski, who has 20-plus years of experience managing northern pike in the state, heard about Slater’s catch and difficulties getting it certified, and offered his help. The fish’s weight was eventually certified at the Berkshire Country Store in Norfolk.
"Thankfully, [store owner] Ryan Craig had equal enthusiasm in helping out and agreed to weigh the pike using his certified scale in the deli," Machowski said. "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 data on some of the state’s largest fish. Now, anyone catching a potential record can pursue state records in Harvest (weight) and Catch and Release (length) categories. Click here for freshwater state records in Connecticut.
"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."
Details about records and the angler recognition program are available on the DEEP Fisheries website 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.