Monday, November 7, 2016

A strange and facinating place to catch Ohio's new state record northern pike

When Troy E. Klingler tossed his Texas-rigged Berkley Power Bait “Crazy Legs” crawdad into 15 feet of water at McKarns Lake September 24th he knew there was remote chance he’d hook a northern pike instead of a largemouth bass.

After all the 35-year old from Stryker, Ohio fishes the old quarry lake pretty regularly and has caught a couple of small pike there before. But usually Klingler is sufficiently happy with reeling in some of McKarns Lake’s respectable largemouth bass.

Yet when his 15-minute duel with a big fish of some sort was over and his best fishing buddy – dad Burl – had helped flip the critter unto the bank, Troy’s fishing life took a decided turn toward trophy class success.

“I really didn’t know what I had until I got it in the shallows and said ‘oh, boy,’” Troy Klingler said. “If it wasn’t for my father being there to help me I probably wouldn’t have been able to land the fish, but it was hooked pretty good.”

That “oh, boy” led to a catch that has become Ohio’s newest state record northern pike; a fish verified by the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Two (northwest Ohio) fish management section and certified by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, which maintains Ohio’s state record fish list.

That new state record is certified at 22.73 pounds and measuring 45 inches, besting the previous state record northern pike weighing 22.38 pounds and measuring 43 inches that was taken from Lyre Lake on October 3, 1988 by Chris Campbell. Lyre Lake is a private club lake in southwest Ohio.

(The Outdoor Writers of Ohio employs weight only in determining state record fish but lists lengths as additional comparative information).

McKarns Lake is not private, however, and is a frequent fishing haunt for Klingler and others, though largemouth bass are much more of a target than are northern pike, which are not even stocked there, or least not by the Wildlife Division.

Nor are pike stocked by any human for that matter with the pike planting coming about through the generosity of the St. Joseph River, a river system that wraps around McKarns Lake in an oxbow fashion.

McKarns Lake is tucked away in the extreme northwest Ohio county of Williams and is about 12 miles from Indiana as well as Michigan. It is named after the late Ohio outdoors writer Hob McKarns who championed all things Williams County.

On oddity in many respects, this former limestone quarry has a maximum depth of 75 to 80 feet even though it’s only 40 acres in size with 1.2 miles of shoreline. Boats with unlimited horsepower are permitted here but the speed is regulated to a no-wake crawl with bank fishing every bit as popular as casting from a vessel.

And while bass are the lake’s chief target by anglers pike offer an uncommon and unexpected bonus.

“Pike occur naturally in the St. Joe River and it floods into McKarns Lake once or twice a year so that’s where it gets its pike,” said Michael Wilkerson, Wildlife District Two fish management supervisor.

Close by to McKarns Lake is 19-acre Barton Lake which shares the same natural pike implanting by the St. Joseph River, Wilkerson says as well. Both lakes make up the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s approximately 100-acre St. Joseph River Wildlife Area.

Wilkerson says to that once a pike does make its way into McKarns Lake it finds some very attractive dining possibilities that include an annual stocking of catchable rainbow trout; and such fish species as muskies and northern pike have long had a reputation of relishing such soft-rayed prey as suckers and trout.

“McKarns Lake certainly has the forage to sustain a couple of pike that large,” Wilkerson says.

 Thus the potential exists for someone else – or Klingler – to catch another record northern pike from McKarns Lake, Wilkerson says.

“The lake gets a fair amount of fishing pressure for such a small body of water but it does have some pretty decent bass fishing,” Wilkerson also says.”We have sampled pike in the lake before but none as large as what Mr. Klingler caught, which is a real trophy. I’d like to have known what it would have weighed in the spring just before it spawned; maybe another one or two pounds.”

Yes, indeed on that bass part, agrees Klingler, who says a rough guess suggests he’s made a couple hundred bass fishing trips to McKarns Lake – all done from the bank, too.

“I don’t have access to a boat,” Klingler said, which hardly seems to have bothered him in catching fish.

Among his arrows in his fishing quiver is that Berkley Crazy Legs, which Klingler says he “swears by,” especially since McKarns Lake has regularly yielded bass up to three pounds on the lure.

Klingler also uses 12 pound test Berkley monofilament in part because McKarns Lake has its share of weed beds plus a shoreline that could etch the life out of fishing line.

As for his new state record Klingler said that title hadn’t crossed his mind too much until someone suggested that he did a little research. It was then he determined that the pike – now stored in the freezer for likely a trip to a taxidermist – was the real new Ohio north pike state record deal.

Once Klingler set the certification wheels in motion by having the fish examined by the Wildlife Division and completed the requisite Outdoor Writers of Ohio’s State Record Fish application, the group’s record fish committee was able to complete its task and certify the catch. That allowed Klingler’s pike to supersede the previous 28-year-old record.

And yet Klingler’s still not done. He continues to visit McKarns Lake, casting a Berkley Crazy Legs (though that other one has been retired) and as he does, mulls the possibility that he might eventually break his own record.

“I might even go ice fishing at McKarns Lake,” Klingler said. “I’ve never ice fished before.”
Imagine that for a minute, please;  hauling a new state record pike through the ice, caught by the same angler who simply was spending a couple hours of restful bass fishing on a lake few other Ohio fishers have even heard of.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


  1. Congratulations on your pike, Mr. Klingler! What a catch. I'm so envious. My husband and I love to fish, but since my balance isn't too good, it's hard to find places to fish off the bank. We don't have access to a boat, so we like to fish at Oxbow lake mostly because of the ease getting to the water. We may try to find McKarns Lake this upcoming season. Any information would be very helpful. Thanks!, Cindy

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