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Man catches massive silver pike on Minnesota Lake

Mark Plumley of St. Croix Falls, Wis., holds the 18-pound, 14.56-ounce silver-phase northern pike he caught Wednesday on Snowbank Lake near Ely. Looking on is his fishing partner, Dave Kodada of Mendota Heights, Minn. (Photo by Ron Schmidt)

Mark Plumley caught just one fish on Wednesday, but he made it count.

Fishing on Snowbank Lake near Ely, Plumley, of St. Croix Falls, Wis., caught what may be the largest silver-phase northern pike ever caught in Minnesota.

The fish, a rare color phase of the northern pike, weighed 18 pounds, 14.56 ounces, according to Plumley and Ron Schmidt of Smitty's on Snowbank. The pike was weighed at Zup's Food Market in Ely.

"It's a gorgeous fish," Schmidt said. "It's old. Half its teeth are gone."

The last Minnesota record for a silver-phase northern pike was

18 pounds, 14 ounces, caught on Disappointment Lake near Ely in 1978. That fish was called a "silver pike" at the time.

However, current state records don't list a category for the silver pike, nor for a silver-phase northern pike. In more recent years, the fish has been considered a color phase of the northern pike, not a distinct species.

Plumley said he will complete paperwork to nominate his catch as a state record, and state officials will have to decide whether to list it as an official record.

Jeff Mueller, a Department of Natural Resources fisheries technician in Tower, identified the fish Wednesday evening as a silver-phase northern pike, he said.

"It's definitely got the bluish hue," Mueller said. "Northern pike are green."

Plumley, 61, was trolling a Rapala X-Rap in 12 feet of water when he caught the fish, Schmidt said. The X-Rap had an orange belly with a gold and brownish top, Plumley said. The pike was 42 inches long and had a 20-inch girth. It didn't seem that big to Plumley when he was fighting it.

"I didn't think it was big as it was," Plumley said. "I fought it for five to seven minutes on lighter tackle. I wanted to tire him out good. I had him to the boat three times."

One of his fishing partners, Dave Kodada of Mendota Heights, Minn., netted the fish for Plumley.

"Once I saw it, I saw the silver color," Plumley said. "I wasn't sure what the deal was."

It isn't uncommon for anglers to catch silver pike on Snowbank Lake.

"Four years ago, we had a hell of a hatch," Schmidt said. "Since then, they've been catching them quite commonly. Last year, a buddy of mine caught seven of them. He had one almost 13 (pounds)."

Doug Ellis of Forbes was fishing on Snowbank on Wednesday and saw Plumley catch his silver pike. Plumley and his fishing partners, Kodada and Bill Davies of Minnetonka, Minn., stopped by Ellis' boat on the way to Smitty's to show Ellis the fish.

"I saw it in the landing net," Ellis said. "It made those guys' day."

It isn't difficult to distinguish a northern pike from a silver-phase northern pike, he said.

"You can really tell the difference. In the 4-pound range, they look like a small muskie without the orange fins. In the water, they look more blue than green," Ellis said.

Silver-phase northern pike are found in a few other lakes across northern Minnesota. Disappointment Lake, home of the 1978 state record silver pike, is one portage away from Snowbank Lake.

The Minnesota record for a northern pike in its conventional color is 45 pounds, 12 ounces, from Basswood Lake near Ely.