Back in 1958, Hollis Grindle headed out onto Beech Hill Pond in Otis and enjoyed a marvelous day of fishing that others have talked about ever since.
The reason: Grindle hooked and landed a state record lake trout. His monster fish weighed 311/2 pounds, was 41 inches long and had a girth of 28 inches.
That record has never been topped.
On Aug. 3, exactly 50 years after Grindle caught his record togue, a flotilla of anglers marked the anniversary in appropriate fashion.
They went fishing at the same pond.
“There were 21 of us,” said 63-year-old Gerald Grindle of Ellsworth, who joined two of his brothers – all sons of Hollis Grindle – in a group that included 10 boats.
Things have changed at Beech Hill Pond over the past 50 years. Seasonal camps and year-round homes are nestled side-by-side all the way around the 1,351-acre pond.
Togue are so plentiful, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has instituted a liberal bag limit, hoping to reduce the number of fish, and increase the average size.
As you might expect, those who took part in the anniversary outing didn’t catch a state-record togue of their own.
“We probably fished for about five or six hours,” Gerald Grindle said. “One [angler] caught a salmon that weighed about 21/2 pounds. The largest togue was probably around that [size].”
Catching big fish wasn’t the order of the day, however.
The outing was about remembering an avid angler and the fish of a lifetime.
Gerald Grindle remembers that he’d spent that 1958 weekend on nearby Green Lake. While heading home, he stopped and picked some blueberries for his mom, and eventually, his dad stopped and picked everybody up.
Nobody knew that Hollis Grindle had caught a monstrous fish earlier that weekend … and he wasn’t talking.
“He never said a word to anyone until we got home,” Gerald Grindle said. “When we arrived in [Ellsworth Falls], we thought there was an accident or something. There were so many cars around.”
Those cars were parked at the Grindle house.
And young Gerald Grindle soon learned why.
“There were a lot of people out on our lawn,” Gerald Grindle said. “When I looked in this galvanized tub, there was this fish in there.”
Not just this fish. The fish.
Today, 50 years later, Gerald Grindle remembers all of the specifics.
Hollis Grindle was fishing with a friend, Bernard Lynch. He was trolling a not-so-secret spot on Beech Hill, not too far from the public landing. He was using a sewn-on shiner as bait.
He fought the fish for nearly 45 minutes before netting it … and bent the net in the process.
As far as fish tales go, however, this isn’t one that was told too often. Hollis Grindle, it seems, wasn’t one to relive his past glories and tell everybody about the one that didn’t get away.
“He never spoke of it much,” Gerald Grindle said. “It pretty much spoke for itself.”
Nowadays, the mounted fish is on a wall in a fisheries office in Augusta, Gerald Grindle says. He’d rather it was in the Maine State Museum, but is glad it still exists.
Hollis Grindle lived until he was 85, and died in 1991.
The lessons the avid outdoorsman taught his sons live on, and are practiced often.
Hollis taught them all how to sew shiners to a leader. He taught them all the basics.
And he taught them that a fisherman’s got to be prepared.
“Dad always told us, if you want to go fishing and have some luck, bring crackers and cheese and some kippers,” Gerald Grindle said. “Take a good snack with you.”
On Aug. 3, they did just that … and it didn’t take long for other anglers to stop by for a nibble and a chat.
“It was wonderful,” Gerald Grindle says.
The Grindle boys have had their own fishing luck in the past, and Gerald says each brother has caught plenty of five- or six-pound togue, as well as an eight- or nine-pounder apiece.
He thinks the future state record togue is out there … somewhere … still swimming.
“I think there are bigger ones,” he said. “I think Green Lake has them, and Branch Pond. You’ve got to be there at the right time, right place. The next thing is to make sure you can bring it in, so you can have bragging rights.”
Maybe someday, someone else will have bragging rights.
But for now, Gerald and his brothers are happy their dad is the still the record holder.
“It tickles me pink,” Gerald Grindle said. “I’m proud of my father.”