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The Unnamed Pickerel Hindsight is still 2020

Expert Article By: Joseph J Breunig 3rd

During my college days at the University of Southern Maine, one of my favorite reference manuals was Bartlett's collection of quotations. It spanned a variety of topics, containing quotes of numerous people from all levels of society. I regularly used this resource to appropriately add colorful thoughts to my writing assignments. Since developing the Bunganut Lake Online website, I have found that even more interesting citations have made their way onto the internet. One of my favorite quotations is from Niccolo Machiavelli. Around 1505 he wrote:

... because how one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin rather than his preservation...

Had I learned this valuable lesson prior to my childhood encounter with the "Unnamed Pickerel", the final outcome would have been significantly different. Here's my story of the fish that got away - hope you enjoy it!

Like many other fishermen, I remember the first "significantly sized" fish to successfully escape from being a trophy catch. As a young boy, I could consistently pull in perch and sunfish. They always were under ten inches in length. One would have thought that I would be satisfied to know that I could reel in fish if I had to. The problem was that only my younger brother (of two years) named David grabbed pickerel from the river - in most cases they were twenty or more inches in length. A volume of small sized fish is no comparison to a collection of trophies that are twice in length.

The family chalet was located on Crooked River in Naples Maine; it was situated approximately 3.5 miles above the Songo Locks in the middle of undiscovered paradise. The river's water level was high and the current was moving quickly. It was a gorgeous summer afternoon with the sun behind the trees. With lots of shadows on the water's surface and a waterfront free of fishing competition, I pulled out my gear.

As I reached the forty foot waterfront, I saw that one of my brothers had left our 18' aluminum canoe unattended and it was not properly put away. It was nearly parallel to the shoreline. As I was baiting my hook, I yelled out for him, but got no response. With a stubborn attitude, I refused to perform the simple act of putting the canoe where it was supposed to be stored. After all, I would get in trouble for not taking care of the canoe when I was done with it. So I left the canoe untouched, hoping that my younger brother would receive some disciplinary action taken against him (for his laziness). What a mistake!

So I stood on the shoreline, behind the canoe, and started fishing. Initially, casting my line over the canoe did not bother me. As the afternoon evaporated, not only were my casts being ignored, but this unexplained sense of guilt came over me. My spirit was prodding my soul for not putting the canoe away. When a fisherman is not having success, he tends to become distracted and lose focus. For me that day, the sound of water lapping the side of the canoe seemed louder than usual. The plopping of my lure hitting the water ringed hollow and insincere; I even noticed that the end of the yellow bow rope was hanging in the river instead of being tucked away inside. With each successive and unanswered cast, the internal pressure continued increasing. Every 10-15 minutes, I would call out for my brother to come and do the right thing - no one was listening.

After 60-90 minutes without a bite, I was ready to find another activity. I needed to walk away when I got my one and only strike for the day. The whizzing of filament coming from my reel caught me by surprise - so much so, that I nearly dropped my fishing pole. Normally that unique sound was primarily associated with my sibling's rod. Before that moment, I had never felt the true tug of a large fish. In an heightened sense of awareness, I frantically called for out for my brother or anyone to come and move the canoe. No one came to my rescue. In fact, the loudest sound I could recognize was the pounding of my heart. Then I saw my quarry break the water's surface - a 20+ inch pickerel. I know, for I had seen too many in David's hands.

It was a magnificient specimen; I thought it would be mine. As I was battling to land this fish during the first five minutes, I had the thought to kick the canoe into the river. For all of a suddened, it seemed to be in the way - my way. Recognizing that it would be irresponsible of me (and not wanting to retrieve it afterward), I still did nothing about the canoe. I was too busy trying to figure out how I wanted to celebrate my prize. After another five minutes elapsed, there was no pull. Oh no - it's gone (so I thought).

As I reeled in my line, I saw that the fish was still there. However, only one prong of the treble was hooked on the corner of the fish's mouth. It didn't look secure and unfortunately I was correct. Trying to maneuver the fish to shore around the canoe was more difficult that anticipated. Then the unexpected occurred. The two empty prongs got snagged on the canoe's yellow rope. And the fish falls off the one prong. It's lying in six inches of water with a canoe between us and it's not moving.

I quickly drop my pole and dive onto the canoe's bow. In a vain and futile attempt, I tried to pin the fish to the river's bottom so I can secure it with both of my hands. The pickerel is slick and easily swims away. I just wanna cry, but there is no audience for my tears.

Before now, I had not shared this woeful tale with anyone. Why you ask? It can best be summed up in this way, in a personally written verse of haiku:

Get them in the boat! Fishing stories without proof are just plain-faced lies.

Next time, I don't want to fish alone. Fishing companions are a good thing.

About The Author

Joseph J. Breunig 3rd is the webmaster of Bunganut Lake Online.

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