Steamboat Living: An interview with pike hunter Johnny St. John
August 1, 2017
Johnny St. John, Pike Hunter. It has a certain ring to it—like what you'd find in a video game. Only he's real and right here in Steamboat. While you'd expect such a character to be based in the Midwest hosting an outdoors show, St. John, owner of drift boat company Hog Island Boatworks, makes the mighty Yampa River his personal pike canvas, chasing the invasive species while most other anglers target trout , which pike wolf down as appetizers. We caught up with him to better understand his penchant for pike.
Steamboat Living: Why pike?
St. John: I like the way pike attack the fly. They absolutely try to destroy it. The first three seconds is like sticking your finger in a light socket.
SL: How is it different than fishing for trout?
St. John: They just get much bigger, making it more exciting.
SL: It's an invasive species … do you keep/eat them?
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St. John: Dang straight. I love to eat them. They're a clean, cold-water, white meat that sautés or fries up real tasty. Fried pike — makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
SL: What's your technique?
St. John: I like to throw big fishy-looking patterns at them or mouse or frog patterns. I want to see and feel them hit it like they mean it.
SL: Where is your favorite spot for it?
St. John: That's a big secret space ranger.
SL: Any favorite patterns?
St. John: I like a big, white chartreuse Clouser-ish minnow imitation or a deer hair mouse.
SL: How hard are they to catch and land?
St. John: They're hard to catch when they don't want to eat. And you can't let them see you. They can also be a challenge to land. I've lost quite a few when they throw the hook. I've also spent weeks on end looking for one particular really large pike never to have her eat.
SL: What's been your craziest experience?
St. John: Having a Big Momma pike eat a fish pattern I was throwing at 6:30 in the morning a couple of summers ago. I was in one of our drift boats, and she literally pulled us around in a slough.
SL: Any plans to release a special Hog Island pike fishing boat?
St. John: Our skiff is being used in the Great Lakes area, and back east with guides who target pike and musky. They use a jet motor to go where other boats can't in the river and then drift with oars. Our skiff is a nice hybrid solution for fishermen who want to motor and also have rowing performance.