Outdoor writers love a good fish story. That goes without saying. And so do the readers who keep us outdoor writers in business.
Over the last 18 years of covering the outdoors beat for the BDN, I’ve learned that there’s nothing like a good fish tale as a conversation-starter. And luckily, most of us have one or two fish stories that we’re happy to share with others.
Even if the story has a not-so-happy ending. (More on that in a moment).
Over the past several weeks, we’ve had the good fortune to share the adventures of a few anglers who had success on our local waters.
Erik Poland of Andover hooked and landed the biggest lake trout in Maine history in July. Poland’s fish, a 39.2-pounder that was 44 inches long, snapped a record that had stood for 62 years. And as you may expect, thousands of BDN readers clicked on the story to learn more.
Then came word of three teens in southern Maine who went on their own version of a “Nantucket sleigh ride” when they hooked a 700-pound bluefin tuna that dragged them across a 10-mile stretch of the Atlantic before they finally landed it. That story captured the imagination of the nation, and the boys were featured on CNN, among other outlets, after the tale appeared on our website.
And while it wasn’t your typical fishing story, even the capture (and release) of a 25-pound lake trout in Aroostook County’s Eagle Lake garnered a lot of attention from our readers. Biologist Frank Frost of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, who caught the fish in a trap net as part of his research work, said it was the biggest togue he has handled in 25 years on the job.
That’s not to say that you have to actually catch the fish to have a memorable fish tale. At least, that’s been my experience. And though I’ve never actually caught a whopper of a fish, I do have a few near-misses that fall into the “the one that got away” category.
I may have nearly cried at the time, but I can now count a fishing trip to Green Lake in Dedham as one of my most memorable for just that reason. I don’t have photos. I didn’t catch the fish. But in my heart, I know that the togue I almost, kind of, nearly caught was the fish of my lifetime (so far).
I was sharing a boat with John Giannini, who was the University of Maine men’s basketball coach at the time, and when the fish struck my sewn-on smelt, I quickly realized that I’d hooked something a lot bigger than the two- or three-pounders I was used to.
I also realized (regrettably) that I’d never seen my new fishing partner wield a net, and wasn’t sure I should trust my fish-of-a-lifetime to a bass angler who was used to grabbing fish by their lower lip in order to subdue them.
So I shook off the coach’s offer to do the netting. I tried to net the fish myself. And I succeeded in getting about half of the flopping togue into the net, and pinning the behemoth against the transom of the boat.
When I flailed around and tried to get more of the fish’s body into the net, I learned that one prong of my treble hook had become lodged in the net itself. My awkward swipe didn’t detach that barb, but the barb that had been in the fish’s mouth popped out as I watched, horrified.
The fish — a 10- or 15-pounder, it seemed — swam away.
It took a few years, but I can laugh about that episode now. (Yes, I should have accepted the help). And I suspect a few of you might have similar tales to tell.
As always, we’re here to listen. We’d love to share your success stories with our readers. Cool photos are always welcome.
And if, like me, you’ve got a tale of woe you’re looking to get off your chest, we might be able to give you a bit of closure.
Or something like that.
Please feel free to reach out at the email below. Trust me: Our readers can’t wait to hear your story.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.