In Jasper, the fishing doldrums of August can be pretty severe. Since opening weekend, area lakes been fished hard and in the heat of the summer, trout tend to make themselves scarce. They're not feeding as voraciously as they do in the spring or fall and they're much harder to locate, the coldest habitat having been thoroughly mixed up and down the water column.
When the trout aren't biting, many anglers in Jasper target a different species: the northern pike—or as my Saskatchewan-born dad calls it, the slough shark.
While I know fishermen who've hooked into the naturally-occurring pike in the Athabasca River, to really slay slough sharks, it's much more effective, and more fun, to head to the weed beds of Talbot Lake.
Talbot is a shallow, relatively warm, mud-bottomed lake which sits under the profile of Roche Miette to the east and the nose of the Colin Range to the west. It is flanked by sand dunes one one side and backdropped by an old burn on the other. The purple fireweed contrasts beautifully with the emerald green water and cattails line the banks, giving big fish cover from predators and fisherfolk cover from the transport trucks and motorhomes which rumble by.
Accessibility is always a double-edged sword. I love Talbot because I can have a line in the water an hour after leaving my front door but the close proximity to the road means the boat launch is usually strewn with litter. I usually will try to find a little fish karma by picking up discarded line or recycling, but I draw the line at dirty diapers.
Pike are fun fish to target because they're so predatory. There's a great story of a local fishing shop running a contest to see who could catch the biggest pike with the most random "lure." The winner ended up hooking a green monster on a sharpened tent peg.
While spoons and hairy spinners do a fine job of imitating baitfish and other creepy-crawlers, one of the most fun ways you can attract pike on Talbot Lake is with the hilarious and ridiculous spinning frog. This lure looks like something you'd win in a cracker jack box, but it's highly effective. Like most crank-bait style lures, you can chuck these frogs a mile, but the difference between this and the other hooks in your quiver is the the spinning frogs float, meaning if you do hook it in the weeds, you can simply paddle over and retrieve it. Best of all, pike love to smash them. The spinning legs are like an irresistible propeller buffet to hungry fish; recently I had a pike hit one so hard that I jumped from the sudden sound of the huge splash.
On Friday evening, my friend Geoff, his two kids and I all loaded into his canoe and took turns banging the frog against the weeds. We were only out an hour and we got three to the boat—mind you, the biggest one was hooked by 9-year-old Casey on a small spoon.
The next day we were four-in-a-boat again but it was a flatfish which turned out to be the lucky lure for the day. Just as Casey was getting bored, my rod started dancing. A few exciting minutes later, I hauled in what had been dragging us around the lake. It certainly wasn't the biggest pike pulled out of Talbot , but at 20 or so inches, it was the longest of my brief slough shark career and a wonderful way to beat the summer trout blues.