A few weeks ago, we asked BDN readers to share some of their memorable fish tales. Send photos, we said. Tell us a (true) story about the one that got away … or didn’t.
And plenty of readers responded.
Today, we’re happy to share some of those stories. As promised, one lucky anlger (Richard Jagels of Winterport) has earned himself a copy of “This Cider Still Tastes Funny,” by John Ford Sr., as a result of a random drawing.
Thanks to all who participated. And keep your eyes peeled for more chances to submit your essays and tales in the weeks ahead.
From Richard Jagels
Two recent fishing trips reminded me of the fickle nature of time spent on the water — outings that can end in disaster or in bliss.
In late May, Hank Metcalf invited me to join him for a few days of salmon trolling on East Grand. It was a last minute invite — I was filling in for another friend who had to cancel out. I arrived at Rideout’s about noon, and we spent a pleasant afternoon trolling. The conditions were cloudy, cold and damp, but we were prepared in heavy warm clothing and rain slickers.
The bite was slow but Hank landed a nice, fat 20-inch landlocked salmon before we headed back to the dock. I had stepped out of the boat, secured the bow and stern lines and was organizing my gear when I looked up and, in a vignette that plays over and over in slow motion in my mind to this day, I saw Hank catch his foot on the boat gunnel lose his balance, fall hard on the dock and while struggling to regain equilibrium, slide into the lake, in water over his head.
Fortunately he had his life vest on and bobbed up and grabbed the edge of the dock. He said his knee was killing him, and I could see the pain on his face. Dry Hank weighs over 200 pounds, so I knew that with water soaked heavy clothing I was not going to be able to haul him out, and no one else was around.
I began the slow process of edging him along the dock toward shore, and fortunately as we reached the boulder strewn beach, two other fishermen spotted our struggles. Between the three of us, we hauled him out. This was just the beginning of a story too long to relate here, but I can say that Hank is now recuperating at home in Orono with six titanium screws patching his shattered leg below the knee.
On the other hand, a recent trip to the Penobscot led to a more sublime ending.
A friend and I were bass fishing behind Ayer’s Island in Orono — a place that continually draws me back to where I caught a seven-pound northern pike a couple of years ago.
We had reasonable luck with smallmouths and a pickerel or two behind the island and up past the bridge. On the way back down, we stopped to chat with a father and son canoe fishing duo. As they departed, we decided to take a couple of last casts before heading to the mainstem.
As I was about to cast, I noticed a thin stick poking out of the river. As we got close I thought I could see a tip-top, and sure enough we hauled out a complete fly fishing rod and reel. It had been in the river for some time. The rod had broken guides and pitted graphite and the reel had much of the anodizing scraped off the aluminum. The line was worthless.
But I enjoy rod and reel restoration. Now, after purchasing some new guides from Gayland Hachey’s shop in Veazie and spending a few enjoyable hours in my basement, I have a serviceable fly rod outfit.
Angling may have its hours of quiet bordering on boredom, but when I least expect it, something rare seems to happen.
From Chris Huston
After many hours this year in pursuit of the toothy fish that call the St. John River their home, I finally was able to connect with a muskie. Brent Stoliker and I were fishing one of our favored bass locations when we saw a yard-long fish rushing the shoreline. As the fish rolled, it was apparent that it was a nice muskie.
We proceeded to cast everything but the kitchen sink over the area. While we did hook into a couple of nice bass, the muskie was nowhere to be found. After half an hour, we assumed it was long gone. As we started the motor, I decided to troll the current line along the edge of the hole before we headed to the next hole. Trolling the whole length of the hole, there were no strikes, but just as I prepared to reel in, the rod doubled over and the fight was on.
The fish was a nice one — good, thick and over 37″ long. Now I have caught (and released) the first one of the year. That is always the toughest one, so hopefully there will be lots more to come.
From Gary Drinkwater
My family and friends traveled to Lake Mistassini in northern Quebec for years, fishing for pike and trout.
We would travel in a caravan with four guys to a truck and four trucks in the group. It took us a day to reach the lake. We launched our boats and drove another 60 miles to camp on an island which we named Stove Island.
We camped on our island for five days to enjoy fishing and fellowship. We even had our own cook, the legendary Felix Cote of Old Town. All trips hunting and fishing we had Felix there to cook. We set up a kitchen under a tarp, complete with a gas cook stove we brought along.
Felix would make us delicious homemade bread and meals on an island 60 miles up the lake. He would often trade his bread and fried dough to the local Indians for fish. Many times he would show off his catch and brag about having more fish than us, and he never left the island.
This one particular year, Cliff Lord of Hermon decided to take along some rubber worms to try. Upon opening his tackle box, the boys on his boat told him those rubber worms were no good and convinced him to throw them overboard, which he did, I’m sure, with assistance.
A couple of days later, Cliff was in our boat, fishing with us. On this particular day we were trolling a cove that held large brook trout. Cousin Jerry hooked a large trout and played him very carefully, seeing that he was using 4-pound test line.
He pulled in a beautiful brookie, about six pounds. Upon netting it and bringing it aboard, the trout had a mess of worms in its mouth. Cliff, who was using the net, recognized that those were his rubber worms that he threw out the previous day, in another cove.
Cliff gathered them up and said that was the last time he’d listen to those heathens.
From Terry Sherman
My husband, Jim, and I were fishing for smallmouth bass in the Androscoggin River. I was catching fish all day, but he didn’t catch one.
He decided to move the boat since “we” weren’t catching anything where we were. I didn’t want to move since I was catching fish, but I agreed. Once he moved us, on the first cast of my rubber worm on a #6 (small) hook, I hooked into a monster.
I fought this guy for quite awhile, afraid that he was going to snap my line. I finally pulled him in, and it was like holding a baby! I’m not sure what kind of a fish it is — either a pike or very large pickerel. There is no way I should have landed a fish this big on such a small hook but the proof is in the picture. This is the largest freshwater fish that I ever caught.
From Jacci Lander Millard
I was lucky to live summers at Green Lake while growing up, I was a pre-teen in the mid 60s and always enjoyed “fishing” with my brothers. They’d invite me to go fishing with them. I’d be so excited; then they’d remind me that we’ll need worms, so I’d start digging and fill a tin can with good earth and worms and some dead leaves for them to eat as their last supper.
The next morning, nice and early, we’re off in the boat “fishing.” My grandfather Wilson, whose camp it was, had a wooden rowboat that was maybe 8 or 10 feet long, and it had to be rowed with two long oars. I rowed of course while Billy and Tim trolled, lines out in the water on either side of the boat. I was fishing all right! And need I mention that when we returned to shore the fish they caught had to be cleaned. You know who was the champion fish cleaner don’t you? I was good! I was fast and thorough.
I always love the memories I have of days at Green Lake fishing along the shore and over into the ‘Pickerel Cove’ where the lily pads grew … even though I was afraid I’d fall in! The boys did threaten me more than once rocking the boat (like that rowboat would ever tip!), but truly none of us wanted to fall into the slimy lily pads! We had fun every day there ‘fishing’ or not!
From Colby Pert
The fog was thick at 4:30 a.m. on June 29, 2011, as my son Steve and I left Sedgwick for a day fishing on the West Branch of the Penobscot. We hurried along through Bucksport, Brewer and onto I-95 north at the Hogan Road in Bangor. The showers set in as we sped north toward Medway.
Oh well! The fish don’t care if its raining, and a day fishing with your son on the river in any weather is better than a day at work, right?
We made a stop in Medway for coffee and a doughnut, and then hurried on. As we crossed Abol Bridge, the skies opened up, slowing us at times because of visibility, but by the time we got to the Telos Road, the first blue patches of clearing were beginning to appear. When we got to the parking lot on the northwest side of “Little Eddy,” it was empty.
“Let’s try them here,” Steve said as he pulled down into the parking area. “If we don’t get any takes after a while we’ll move on.”
We got our waders on, rigged our rods, checked each other for the important things that a well-dressed fisherman needs on the West Branch and then headed down over the bank, upstream of the ledge — Steve on a patch of gravel by the base of the ledge and me upstream a ways on a rock on the upper side of the eddy. Before I could get situated, Steve had a nice salmon of a pound and a half.
Oh sure, I thought, another day like all the others when my son would outfish me two to one, maybe more. But believe me when I tell you it doesn’t get any better than watching your son catch fish.
“Leave a few for the old man,” I hollered, and soon had a nice salmon of my own take a elk hair caddis I had drifted in next to the foam line.
As the day progressed, Steve caught four more nice salmon, and I caught two more salmon and a brookie.
Steve came by and said, “Let’s try em down below the cribworks and then head home.” As I was taking up my line, and the fly was just clearing the water by my feet a nice salmon took it and the fight was on, and I had soon landed my fifth fish. Damn! We were tied.
The old man had to crow about that to the youngster. The stop below the crib works proved unfruitful, and we soon were speeding back toward Sedgwick.
What a wonderful day.
Four days later, Steve began treatment for esophageal cancer that would finally consume him on Oct. 20, 2011, the last day of fishing at Grand Lake Stream.
As I sit here writing this, I think of all the opening days at Grand Lake stream, of the trips to
Caucomgomoc Stream, Crescent Lake, the Allagash, St. John, Little Black and a thousand ponds and streams in between.
But there are no memories any closer to my heart than the day at “Little Eddy,” the last time I ever fished with my son, Steve.
From Jane Rosinski
A few years ago, when our outboard motor was acting up, my husband suggested I try it to see if his latest “fix” had done the trick. I didn’t want to be aimlessly motoring around, so I threw in a pole and a lure. The motor started on the first pull, and I set out trolling along the shore. Part way out, I snagged bottom, or so I thought.
With the motor in neutral to assess, I tugged on the line. It appeared to be moving. How could that be? Then the motor quit. And then the fish jumped. This was not a short little Striper like we had been throwing back all weekend. This huge striped fish was at least three feet from head to tail. It only jumped once, but that was all I needed to get my heart pumping.
How was I to land this monster with no net in the boat (remember, I was only testing the motor.) Can I grab it under the gill? By the mouth? Do Stripers have teeth? I’d reel a few turns and gain some ground and then it would take off again. After a half hour the fish was tiring and so was I. In the meantime I’m being towed out to sea and starting to worry about becoming “the old woman and the sea.”
Then a seal showed up. The last thing I needed was for that seal to get tangled in my line! Well, I needn’t have worried. The seal dove. My line snapped. The seal came to the surface with a very large striped bass draped crosswise in its mouth. That was the last I saw of a very nice fish — the one that got away — from me anyway.
From Nancy Asante
About 50 years ago, five members of my family went out on a deep-sea fishing trip with Capt. George Harris of Eastport. In addition to us, there were five or six sport fishermen from Pennsylvania with a bewildering array of high-tech rods, reels and tackle. My Aunt Ruth, a librarian from New Hampshire, had brought a book and would have been content simply to enjoy the sunny day while watching the rest of us catch haddock, pollock and cod.
George said, “Nobody comes on my boat unless they fish,” and he baited the handline hooks for her.
As the boat drifted with the tide in Passamaquoddy Bay, occasionally lines got tangled beneath the boat, much to the annoyance of the rod-and-reel guys. Suddenly Aunt Ruth got a mighty tug on her line.
George kept her from being pulled overboard and helped haul the catch in. It took two crewmen with gaffs to bring the fish into the boat — a 50-pound cod!
That proved to be the high point of the day, and just about the only catch, apart from some sculpins and a few small cod. The Pennsylvania fishermen had very little despite their complicated gear, and Aunt Ruth was happy to let George dispose of her noble catch.