Joey Teofilo is eager to fish Lake Nipissing again after pulling up a giant burbot and dozens of walleye while his father and family friend got their lines wet off the South Shore last week.
They didn’t have a weigh scale the first afternoon when he caught the freshwater ling not long before sunset January 4. He posted photos and a YouTube video on the Lake Nipissing Ice Fishing Board Facebook group page asking locals if it looked like a record-breaker.
“Lake Nipissing is a fish factory,” an enthusiastic Teofilo told BayToday when reached Saturday by cell phone as they were heading out on Lake Simcoe.
Back in southern Ontario, he said it was nice to be on Nipissing with so many options compared to the crowded, tight groups of ice huts that vie for choice spots on Lake Simcoe.
“My heart was racing as I was trying to get it through the hole,” he said of the big burbot, adding they considered widening it with the auger but feared cutting the line.
Teofilo, a landscaper by trade and keen amateur angler, said the Ontario burbot record was actually caught on Lake Simcoe with Sebastian Roy reeling up a 17.95-pound lunker Jan. 25, 2017 (according to the OFAH/Ontario Record Fish Registry).
Teofilo said he’s caught plenty of large Lake Trout, including some 10-pounders, and just by the heft of his long ling figured it was in the 16 to 18-pound neighbourhood.
“I don’t really get excited over a lot of fish,” he said, adding “this thing was truly a behemoth, a dinosaur.”
While he’s done some tournament fishing and has documented adventures with numerous videos it’s mostly “just for fun.”
His Nipissing burbot video is about 22 minutes long and features Teofilo demonstrating technique and commentary, including excitement at the 12-minute mark when his father, Aldo, catches his first-ever keeper walleye after being teased with several others under the 18-inch slot size limit.
At the 17-minute mark, his neighbour, Ansel, lands a fat 25-inch walleye and celebrates with a smile as wide and bright as a Lake Nipissing sunset.
The ling adventure begins around the 19-minute mark and there’s a good look at its length and size at the 20-minute mark before returning it to the lake.
Even if he weighed and measured the burbot, records require the actual fish and Teofilo said he wouldn’t kill such an ancient creature.
Carl L. D’Amour commented on the fish in the Facebook group comments, noting a 17-pound, 10 ounce has been caught at least three separate times near Gull Rock. He said Teofilo’s fish was smaller than that one.
Aware of the provincial COVID-19 pandemic post-Christmas clampdown closing many businesses and ski hills, Teofilo said they didn’t break any laws and were careful to minimize their interactions. They stayed at a North Bay hotel that enforced strict protocols. There were only a couple of people on his floor, he said, to keep guests from mixing in the elevator, masks were mandatory and his father and him stayed in one room, a friend in another.
“We wore gloves when we were around and never really interacted with anyone there, it was all done over the phone,” he said, adding they packed and cooked their own food and used drive-throughs for coffee runs.
“And we took those protocols and respect, obviously, the locals and didn’t want to step on any toes … and the locals were really nice about it, too,” Teofio said. “They understood what we were doing and how we were going about it, they were really welcoming.”
“I have nothing but good to say about North Bay, I would definitely come back in a heartbeat,” he said, explaining his next trip will focus on breaking that burbot record now that he knows how big they grow up here.
Told his video is great marketing for Lake Nipissing, Teofio’s realistic about the chances his adventures might turn into a commercial enterprise.
“I would love to but unfortunately I don’t think it would pay the bills at the moment,” he said. “I truly just do it for the sport and helping those who can get something out of it really.”
Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.