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Brad Dokken / Forum News Service, Published July 07 2013

Woman catches 43-inch northern in channel

Grand Forks - You might say fish tales have a way of “latching on” to Bridgie Hanson.

It all started last July 29, when Hanson, of Grand Forks, was fishing Devils Lake with her husband, Glenn, and grandson, Evan Hanson, of Shakopee, Minn., who was 6 years old at the time.

They were fishing in 30 feet of water when Evan felt a tug on his line and started reeling. He got the 15-inch walleye to the surface when a northern pike attacked the fish at the side of the boat and wouldn’t let go.

With the help of his grandpa, Evan landed both fish, and his grandparents had a taxidermist mount the 30-inch pike with the walleye in its jaws. They gave the mounted fish to Evan as a Christmas present.

Fast forward to June 30, when Hanson and her husband were fishing Six-Mile Bay of Devils Lake; they’d caught a couple of small walleyes when she suggested they venture up Channel A to see how far they could go.

She likes to catch northern pike and figured Channel A, which flows into Six-Mile Bay, would be their best option for hooking a few of the toothy fish.

Boating up the narrow channel and fishing in 7 to 16 feet of water, Hanson said the surroundings reminded her of “River Monsters,” the reality TV show in which host Jeremy Wade pursues suspected people-eating fish.

Trolling with spinners and night crawlers, Hanson said her husband missed a strike that felt like a big fish.

“Within four minutes, something hit my line, and I said, ‘I have a big fish, Glenn,’’ said Hanson, an avid fisherwoman and administrator of the Grand Forks Juvenile Detention Center.

When the fish surfaced beside the boat, she saw it was a huge northern pike, with what at first glance appeared to be a log in its mouth.

“I said, ‘get the net,’ and he just scooped it in the boat,” Hanson said.

The “log” was a 24-inch northern, and the bigger fish wouldn’t let go. That’s when the real fun began, and the big pike began flopping all around the interior of the Hansons’

21-foot Lund Alaskan fishing boat.

“We had a heck of a time,” Hanson said. “That fish was bouncing all around. I cut my hands up, and my husband did, too.”

They knew they were going to keep the pike for mounting, Hanson said, so her husband subdued the fish with a boat paddle.

The big fish measured 43 inches with a 25-inch girth and weighed 23½ pounds. The pike was so big, she said, that its tail stuck out of the live well.

After her grandson’s encounter last summer, Hanson says she never thought history would repeat itself – especially in such a big way.

“I said nobody would ever believe that this has happened twice to us,” Hanson said. “From where I was (in the boat), I knew it was a big fish, and the way it was fighting, it was a dead weight. The eyes on this thing were so big.

“The way it looked, that 43-inch northern could have consumed the 24-inch fish in a heartbeat. It was crazy.”

Hanson might have hooked the fish, but she says she couldn’t have landed it without her husband’s help.

“It takes a true man (with finesse) at the net to bring them in,” she said. “I credit my fishing hubby for his strength, patience and quickness he has shown bringing in these fish.”

The big pike might not have been a “River Monster,” Hanson said, but “it was a Devils Lake channel monster for sure.”

The fish also had another angler’s jig in its mouth, Hanson said, so, besides a two-for-one fish tale, she got herself a new lure.

Hanson, who also kept a 29½-inch walleye for mounting last September on Devils Lake, said she’ll be releasing any big fish she catches in the future.

“We don’t have any more wall space,” she said.

Dokken writes for the Grand Forks Herald