Eighteen Pounds

The evening breeze rifled the water as he made his cast. It was nine o’clock and it was still daylight, but the sun was at the treetops, slowly descending into total darkness. The loons were making their plaintiff call, echoing across the bay. In the distance, he heard the splashy slap of a beaver’s tail, and in front of him, a muskrat swam to shore. It paused, looked in every direction, then vanished into a hole in the bank.

Starting his retrieve, the angler fast cranked a red and white spoon back to him, pausing every ten seconds, and letting it drop. It was on his third cast that it happened. During one of the retrieves pauses a long, slender form charged from beside a cluster of rocks. In its ferocity, it somehow missed the spoon by a couple of inches and raced away.

The angler immediately thrust the tip of his pole into the water and began to do frantic crazy eights with the spoon. In the distance, he could see the water roil, and he knew the fish was coming back. He watched it try again, this time inhaling the lure. He set the hook, as hard as he could, and the fight was on. Being this close to the boat, the fish splashed, rolled, and did everything it could to throw the lure. The angler took his time. He didn’t try to force it to submit, rather he let the fish wear itself out. Steering it toward his landing net, he hoisted it into the boat. Being careful of its gills, he freed it from the net and admired his prize

“Wow!”, he thought, This has to be the biggest pike I’ve ever seen.”

Taking his pliers from his tackle box, he unhooked the fish and reached for his scales. Fumbling with the thrashing fish, he finally got it on the apparatus.

“Oh, my gosh!” he thought, “Eighteen pounds! I’ve gotta get a picture of this. But how am I going to do it?”

He was at the north end of the lake, quite a ways from his cabin at the resort. As he pondered, he noticed another boat halfway across the lake.

“Maybe they can help me,“ he thought as he lay the massive fish on the bottom of his boat, “gotta hurry, gotta get it back in the water as soon as I can.”

Firing up his motor and turning on his running lights, he made a beeline for the other craft. Pulling alongside, he killed the motor and introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Jim. I’m staying at the resort on the other end of the lake. I am sorry to bother you but would you help me? I just caught the biggest pike I’ve ever seen. Would you take my picture with my phone? I think we still have enough light.”

“Sure, no problem,” came the answer, “get a big one?”

“My scales say eighteen pounds.”

“You gotta be kidding me! I thought the Minnesota DNR stopped stocking a long time ago. Evidently not.”

“We need to hurry. I want to get her back in the water. At least I think it’s a female. I’m not sure I know how to tell,” replied Jim with some urgency.

“Me either, give me your phone.”

Jim did and posed with the fish. It was still very lively and he struggled to hold it still.

“Boy, is she a beauty!”

Picture taking over, he lowered her into the water. He grabbed her tail and gently pulled her back and forth, forcing oxygen-loaded water through her gills. Sluggish at first, but in a couple of minutes the pike wiggled from his grasp and was gone.

Thanking the other boat’s occupants, he fired up and started for the lodge.

“What a fish! A fish of a lifetime. I wish Grandpa could have seen it,” he thought as he backed into the mooring place at the dock.

After stowing his tackle, he cleaned up, made a cup of coffee, and relaxed on the front step. He found that he couldn’t stay there for long. The mosquitos were eating him alive. Noticing a light on in the resort’s office, he made his way there, knocked, and was invited in.

“Out late tonight. Have any luck, Jim,” asked the resort owner.

 Jim produced his phone and shared his catch.

“I see that Wabana is still producing. It amazes me what people are able to pull up from her depths. Where did you catch her?”

“The north end. She hit a spoon,” Jim answered.

“Nicest pike I’ve seen in years. Put her back?”

“Yes, Grandpa taught me that. He taught me not to harvest the breeding stock. Said that there would be pike for future generations to catch.”

“Good. Your grandparents were good people. I knew them well. I also remember you spending your summers here,” offered the owner.

“Lake Wabana is my favorite place on Earth. I love it here. Can’t wait to come back. Unfortunately, my work hinders me from coming as much as I want,” replied Jim.

“Be back next year?”

“I plan on it. Grandma and Grandpa loved Minnesota so much and especially this lake. That’s why they retired here.”

“Ever thought about moving here?”

“Don’t tempt me,” he answered then headed for his cabin.

Tomorrow would be another day on the water. Maybe Wabana had another surprise for him.

January 21, 2021

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

This is one of my favorite places. My grandparents retired and lived there. I have so many fond memories of the lake. Early mornings on the water, the lonesome call of a loon during the evenings, and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. I've seen it snow the first of June, and Grandpa told me they averaged over a hundred inches of snow every year.  It also got fifty below zero there several years ago. I could care less about how hot or cold it got. My memories will stay with me for the rest of my life.