If Griffin Butler took on the traditional back-to-school challenge of writing a research paper titled “What Did I Do This Summer,” he would have a story to tell.
Fish story. Only this was true. The 11-year-old Litchfield boy has photographic evidence.
Butler describes himself as an avid fisherman, saying he has been dipping a fishing rod since he was 4 or 5 years old. And summer days in Litchfield are a perfect time to pick up his fishing gear, hop on his bike and go to Ripley Lake.
“I fish a lot in the summer,” Butler said. “About three times every week.”
And so there he was on a Monday afternoon in late August, fishing from a private dock on the south side of Lake Ripley, just west of the city’s campsite.
To catch bass, Butler baited his hook with a wacky worm from a watermelon slice. He made a cast and was reeling it in quickly, the worm hook eccentric near the surface, when he felt the strike of a fish. He couldn’t figure out what it was at first.
“I wasn’t looking, but as soon as it got to the dock, I saw it was a long object, and I knew right away it was a pike,” Butler said.
“Long body” was not an exaggeration. When he finally landed it — with the help of someone who was driving near the spot he pointed out — the northern pike was 30 inches long and weighed more than seven pounds. Butler said he was surprised by the size, considering the ease with which he caught his catch.
He added: “He didn’t fight as hard as he should have, he was just a heavyweight.” “I’ve fought a few times, I think, but not much.”
With no net, “I had to wave down a random car to come help me” in bringing in the fish, Butler said. He handed his rod to his anointed assistant and went into 5 or 6 inches of water near the shore to catch the fish.
Although a very large fish by Ripley Lake standards, it was not the largest server ever landed. That honor goes to a 36-inch pike he caught last winter while fishing in Lake of the Woods.
According to records kept by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the largest northern pike ever caught in the state was 46 inches long. It’s actually a joint record, with the last one taken and released on January 22 on Lake Mille Lacs by Brad Lilla of Hudson, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Brecken Kobilecki of Geneva, Illinois, caught a pike of the same length on June 19, 2021, on Lake Passod Lake in Lake County.
Although his catch was not a state or even personal record, Butler said he was very happy with the story of the fish Lake Ripley gave him this summer.
“Other than that, there hasn’t been much going on in Ripley this summer,” he said. “I caught a couple of 4-pound bass this spring and a bunch of crappie. This was it.”