I was an avid fisherman in my younger days and spent hours angling all over Chenango County, usually in the company of my slightly older stepbrother Geoff. We spent countless hours in pursuit of the “next big catch” and were tortured daily by the knowledge that we knew right where the biggest fish were, we just couldn’t fish there.
Adding to our dismay was the fact that this body of water, known as Glen Lake, was no further than a half-a-mile down the road from my dad’s house.
At one time, when my father, aunts and uncle were children, this man-made lake was open to the public for fishing, swimming, boating and all manner of recreational activities. However, following their divorce, the couple who owned the property closed it off, and that’s how things remained for decades, this even though the lake had been well-stocked with a large variety of fish. Those daring enough might sneak down in the wee hours of the morning to snatch a bass or two, but the dangers inherent in these endeavors (the wife kept a loaded gun close to hand) made most think twice.
Now I’m sure you can imagine how Geoff and I felt as we rode our bikes past the lake early in the evening, just as twilight descended in the midst of summer. We would stop and stare wistfully as, no joke, pickerel nearly four feet in length would shoot up out of the water attempting to eat the birds which were after the multitude of bugs flying near the lake’s surface. Talk about torture for a pair of young boys. As obsessed as we were with hooking “the big one,” well, this was just too much.
Fast forward about fifteen years.
Sometime around the year 2000 everything had changed. Under new ownership, I finally had access to the now mythical body of water, not to mention the new owner offered me the use of a paddle-boat whenever I desired. After years of regaling my friends with stories of the immense fish lurking beneath the surface of Glen Lake, I finally had the opportunity to prove my words true. And since Geoff now lived in Texas, I needed a new fishing partner. Enter my friend and fellow Fools at Play guitarist Adam.
My first experience fishing on Glen Lake just happened to be the Fourth of July, as Adam and I packed our gear and headed for Pratt Road. We wasted no time in selecting a paddle-boat and setting forth, already imagining that first fish, and we didn’t have to wait long. Ten or fifteen minutes into our fishing adventure saw both of us landing a pair of larger-than-normal sunfish, prompting Adam to consider using one as live bait since I had assured him there were gigantic predators just waiting in the deeper sections of the lake. And that’s when it happened.
Weighed down with a heavy load of sinkers, and sporting a large treble hook that could have doubled as a grappling hook, the sunfish Adam had chosen for bait was dropped into the deepest part of the lake we could find. I wish I could’ve known what that poor, doomed sunny was thinking at the time, probably something along the lines of “oh lord no, I am in the wrong part of town.” To think that this oversized sunfish, so used to roaming the shallow waters at the lake’s edge, was now thrust suddenly into the environment of its most dangerous predators was just too much for us as we laughed, pondering the situation. But we weren’t laughing for very long.
Before we could even consider what was happening, Adam’s line went shooting speedily away from the paddle-boat, and in seconds we were being pulled across the lake. Two grown men, in a hefty paddle-boat, flying first westward, then eastward, across Glen Lake. For nearly 15 minutes this went on and I would guess that we crisscrossed the lake three or four times. I, having pulled in my line to avoid entanglements, only had one thought as I imagined a northern pike with teeth that could take off a finger, or fingers, or maybe an entire hand – “we’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Unfortunately we never did get to see this monstrosity of a fish, as eventually Adam’s line went slack. That poor sunfish had seen his last day and ended up as lunch. I’ve often pondered just how big that now legendary fish must have been to pull us repeatedly, back and forth, across the lake that afternoon, and every day as I drive past that old longing to dig out the old fishing pole and get my license grows stronger. Now where did I put that tackle box?