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Hold the chili: unique bait works

Aaron Pappas holds an obviously well-fed northern pike he caught and released on a Park Rapids area lake last weekend. The bait that lured this big fish was something you're more likely to see at a baseball game than in a bait shop. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Over the years, anglers gain information through experience and from other fisher-folk who aid in becoming more successful on the water.

Experience through trial and error is great, but it definitely takes time. Getting tips from others is a pretty simple way to learn. That's one reason fishing seminars, radio, TV and Internet programs, and fishing literature is so popular.

I enjoy sharing my angling tips and experiences with others to help them catch more fish. Yet I'm not exempt from learning either. Acquiring innovative angling approaches has been beneficial whether the information came from the media or another angler. Yet everything you hear isn't always worthwhile to stow away in your cerebral bag of angling tricks.

Last week I accompanied a group of Cub Scouts on a fishing expedition to the Park Rapids Community Fish House on Fish Hook Lake. The action was rapid and all of the attendees caught plenty of fish including perch, bluegill and rockbass.

One of the parent chaperones and I started talking fishing, specifically about northern pike. The fellow fisherman shared a tale of an interesting trip he had recently taken to North Dakota.

The group of anglers stopped at a bait shop on the way to a small lake where nice northern pike were known to lurk.

After purchasing frozen minnows for their tip-ups, the clerk asked, "Did you pick up any hotdogs"? The anglers stood speechless.

The bait shop attendant went on to say that a whole hotdog would surely get more action than the minnows. "The cheap ones work best," he added.

Well, the employee was right and most of the group's fish were caught on hotdogs.

I was still a bit skeptical, but figured it couldn't hurt to try this out myself.

After mentioning my plan to a few other people, I heard more and more stories about people catching pike on hotdogs, though none admitted to actually trying it.

So last Sunday we hooked a hotdog on a tip up and dropped it down close to the bottom. For four hours the flag remained still, which didn't matter, the panfish were active around us.

But just before we packed up to leave, the orange flag sprang to attention and the spindle began to slowly turn, soon spinning like a fan on high-speed.

My 15-year-old stepson Aaron took hold of the braided line and began to pull back. My dad and I both figured it was a snake, hammer-handle, slime-dart; in other words, a tiny fish.

Then Aaron pulled the fish out from the hole and a wave of water came with it. This was no small fish.

The hotdog presentation is known to work in North Dakota. After witnessing the massive pike caught last weekend, I can confidently say it works in Minnesota too, more specifically, right here in Park Rapids. And if you don't catch fish on the hotdog, at least you'll have a back-up plan if you forget to pack a lunch. Just remember to bring buns!