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The ongoing pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. But on a tiny island in the middle of a central Maine pond, real life can be forgotten for a while. That’s what 6-year-old Hazen Wilcox and his family have discovered.
In Hazen’s world, adventures await, and there are fish to be caught.
The island, just a few hundred yards from the mainland, is a rocky outcropping that’s less than 100 yards from end to end. It’s just the kind of idyllic world we’d think a young boy would love.
The pond is right there, just a few steps from the camp’s front door, perfect for swimming and kayaking and fishing.
His mom, Paige, and dad, Mike, moved the family here seven weeks ago to make social distancing easier, and take turns heading to town to work, with the other parent staying on the island to watch over Hazen and his little sister, “Brookie.” For weeks, this has been “home.”
And Hazen loves it.
“I like to go boogie boarding on the waves,” he said. “Swimming, jumping off the boat.”
Some young cousins have visited and taught Hazen the finer points of kayaking, and he has already claimed a nearby island as his own, despite his dad pointing out that he was just visiting.
The kids have likewise claimed the “far” end of the island (if there can be a “far” end of such a small piece of land), and call it “Kids Camp.”
“Only kids allowed,” Hazen said, leading a grownup interloper to his hideaway. When the visitor points out that he’s actually an adult, and probably shouldn’t go, Hazen softens his policy.
“C’mon,” he said with a grin. “Let’s go.”
On this day, Kids Camp shows signs of activity, as Hazen and Brookie’s supplies — a backpack, slippers and a copy of Robert McCloskey’s “One Morning in Maine” — lie along the path that leads to the water’s edge.
At his dad’s instruction, Hazen packs up some of his belongings and makes the short, bare-footed hike back to camp, where he can get down to telling his first big fish story.
“Biggest fish ever,” Hazen said, proudly.
On Monday— a perfectly calm July evening on the pond — while the adults were busy talking, Hazen went fishing off the boat, which was tied to the dock. And in an instant, the avid angler wound up with the fish of his young life.
“My mom and my grandpop and my dad were sitting by the fire in the nighttime. I just decided to throw in a couple lines with my broken fishing pole. I throwed one line over there,” Hazen said, pointing to the left of the dock.
That was just the right spot. A lurking bass took the Rapala lure, and the fight was on.
“At first, when I had the fish on I thought it was a piece of grass because [the fish wasn’t moving],” Hazen said. “But then it [swam] that way, and there was a fish on. So I kept reeling in.”
Reeling wasn’t as simple as it sounded.
The fishing pole itself wasn’t broken. But the nut that holds the handle to the reel had fallen into the pond earlier, and the handle kept slipping off.
Undeterred, Hazen winched the bass toward the boat as the adults scrambled to find a net.
The net that used to be on the boat was also in the pond (Hazen said 2-year-old Brookie dropped it in earlier in the day, but Brookie wasn’t admitting any such thing).
“Mom ran all the way to the back of the island at 100 miles an hour to get a net,” Hazen said. “My dad was quick enough to get [the fish] into the [boat] because my line snapped.”
And there, on the deck, flopped a bass that ended up weighing 3.76 pounds.
Hazen’s reaction: “Whoa. That was a close one.”
Mike Wilcox said Hazen and the fish (or another one a lot like it) have some history, as Hazen hooked another monster earlier in the summer.
That fish escaped when (you guessed it) the line snapped as Mike was trying to grab the fish by its lip.
“[Hazen] was like, ‘It’s OK, dad. It’s OK.’ He could see my face, and knew I was devastated,” Mike Wilcox said. “He was like, ‘Whatever.’ But since then, we’ve always talked about catching the big boy.”
On Monday, they did just that.
But that doesn’t mean Hazen’s summer is complete. Not even close.
There’s a huge pickerel that hangs out under the paddleboard, you see. And he’s got lots more fishing tackle to learn how to use.
And after telling a few fishing stories, he seems to have decided that he likes doing that, too.
“Can you come back some time?” he asks as we load up the boat to head back to the mainland. “Maybe kayak? Maybe fish?”
Sounds like a good idea to me.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com