The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

A seriously big togue

A seriously large togueFishing season opened this weekend past. I did not go, for several reasons unnecessary to list here, but the day did pull out images of fishing seasons of my youth.

Being a boy with little patience for sitting still for long hours, I spent most of my fishing time alone with a homemade spooning rig or a spinning rod and reel set and store-bought lures. Dad, was more into dragging a two-inch piece of silver metal wrapped partially around a strip of mother-of-pearl.

He would go out for hours, trolling – the 5.5 hp Chris Craft Challenger outboard barely ticking over, keeping the boat moving just fast enough to steer as he navigated the triangular circuit, from our house to a curve in the far southern shore, to the island at the north end of the lake and back nearly home.

The few times I went with Dad, he constantly reminded me to stop my fidgeting lest the noise of my feet scraping the bottom of the aluminum boat cause every fish in the lake to head up the road 30 miles to Moosehead Lake, or beyond. But there was this one time …

We had been trolling for an hour or two, dragging that line and watching the wind come up. Several times, he suggested we should go in “pretty soon,” but he was certain if we stayed out just “one more circle” over the deep part of the lake, we surely would catch a fish.

Then it happened! His rod bent and pulled nearly from his hand, as though the hook had caught on a sunken tree.

He cursed at the impending loss of a lure and started to reel in the log.

But the log pulled back. Several times. Dad decided it was a fish had latched onto his lure – a big one from the way it resisted being cranked up from the depths. Finally, whatever it was appeared, long, fat and shadowy, just below the wind-roiled surface. It hung there, still and heavy. It was a log, after all, and Dad cursed again.

Dad’s cursing, perfected during two tours as a U.S. Marine and 20 years a New York City cop, was truly impressive. He could, I swear, go on for 15 minutes without drawing a breath or repeating a word.

The log didn’t give him 15 minutes. It did something I’ve never seen a log do, before or since. It suddenly headed for the bottom of the lake, while the wind blew us toward the rockbound coast of the island. Dad decided we should switch places in the boat. Until that point, he was in back, running the motor. As a crewman some positions below Able Bodied Lakeman, I had the middle seat, my only task being to be quiet. But the rocks were getting closer and larger. We traded seats.

I started the motor and drove us upwind a hundred feet or so, while Dad fought his prey. That went on for at least an hour, the wind and fish pulling us to the island, me driving us back upwind, us drifting back down.

Finally, the contest was won. We netted the fish, a true lunker togue, 24 inches long. Dad was certain it was a record, for that lake if not for the State of Maine – or maybe all of New England. We returned home and took some pictures, then Dad climbed in the Pontiac and took his prize to town for an official weighing and storytelling.

The fish turned out to be a quarter-inch short of the record from Porter Lake. Dad was only a little chagrined. And it tasted really good at dinner that evening.

If I went fishing with Dad again, I don’t remember it, but it’s just as well. I am pretty sure there were no fish in the lake to top the one we caught that day.


  1. Great story, John. Hard to top an experience like that.

    • I can remember even now lots more detail than I had room or need to write in the story.

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