Monday, 20 February 2012

Esox lucius

I can vividly remember the very first time I saw a Pike.

I was about 11 years old and had just trekked up the hard and frosty track in the (very) early winter sun, side by side with my Dad. It was hard work carrying our heavy tackle over the frozen ground, and we struggled on through the tall grass and stinging weeds towards the stony promontory of flat land that eased itself out into the waters of the glassy smooth lake.

Fred Buller's superb book on all things Pike
The gravel pits where we fished that day were known locally as the 'Finger Ponds' due to the long excavations cut deep into the earth like the fingers of a glove. Nature had re-colonised the earthworks with lush green vegetation and the adjacent river had filled the deep chasms in the ground with cold, dark water and a multitudinous array of freshwater fish.

I think we were after Bream or Roach or some other innocuous, placid shoaling fish. In those days I fished with my Dad on a Sunday for the sport alone. The spot we had chosen was next to a large Willow tree whose delicate gold green fronds trailed into the slack water to our left, and where aquatic debris and algae formed a pretty layered frill between lake water and bank.

As we emerged though the tangled jungle there it was. A huge Pike lurking in the green black slick. Seemingly dead, it's pale white belly was peeking out of the water as it floated upside down in the still water under the boughs of the tree. To me back then, a gangly youth of 11 years, the fish was a monster. Even now it would be classed as a specimen fish by most anglers at over 3 feet long. We guessed that it must of weighed close to 20lbs. A tiddler really though in Pike terms.

Esox lucius (Northern Pike) grow even bigger than this...
We went back a week or so later when, armed with a wire trace, some treble hooks, extracting forceps and a tin of sprats from the supermarket (no really), my Dad proceeded to catch a young 'Jack' pike. I will always remember the look of panic on his face and the trepidation on retrieving the hooks from the pike's large, teeth filled jaws after he landed the fish.

I have had a fascination with Pike ever since and have devoured numerous books on these freshwater monsters over the interceding years but have never actively sought them out since.

Now I've mentioned before that I don't hunt fish that I can't eat as a rule. But Pike are actually quite good eating. In days gone by thier white flesh would fetch a high price, above that of Salmon and Cod in thier day. And a 6lb Pike is a very worthy meal indeed.

I'm awaiting a much sought after magical gate key this week. One that will gain me entrance to some predator filled waters here...

18 comments:

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I hope you get your gate key. I don't think I've ever eaten pike. Nice memories, Chris :-)

Elaine said...

Lovely posting! Good luck with the fishing - and best of luck with the magical gate key. I have posted a pike recipe for you.

Carly said...

Watch out for those teeth Chris! Happy fishing...hubby was forever camped out on a lake, carp fishing, before he met me, I'm hoping he'll teach the boys one day. Lovely memories :) x (and I think the bulbs are daffs, the suspense is killing me lol)

Texan said...

Well just goes to show what I know about fish (or don't), I did not know about Pike or that they have teeth. Oouch watch those fingers!

John Gray said...

my only knowledge of Pike is the story where one nearly killed Jeremy fisher or was it Jemima Puddleduck in one of Miss Potter's books!
nicely written memory christopher

Hippo said...

Funny how in UK they turn their noses up at freshwater fish but on the continent, they love them.

Pike is a bony fish so we used to shred the meat and make dumplings out of them and serve them in a broth (Hecht Kloschen) but you can steam the fish as well. Just google Hecht Rezepte and you'll get loads of recipes. I love Carp as well.

I have just eaten a plate of shore crabs that Alex and I collected this afternoon. I was amazed to learn that none of the locals eat them as they do not live in the sea but in burrows dug down to the water table (the crabs, not the locals). Never mind the tasty meat in the claws, split the carapace off, add a little beer and a dash of hot pepper sauce, stir the lot up into a sludge and slurp it down. Hmmn.

I like free food...

Chris said...

Lisa - it has to be forged in an active volcano during the alignment of the planets. Should be here before Thursday. :-)

Elaine - You are a star. Thank you for the recipe. Pike, despite thier tasty flesh, are renowned for having long, needle-like bones. I would normally fillet these fish and so remove most of them but your recipe looks delicious so I'll definitely give it a go. Just have to catch one...

Carly - there's a trick to unhooking a Pike which (if I can catch one) I will try and illustrate in that future post. Either that or a close up of the wound.
I reckon they are Daffs...

Chris said...

Tex - and our toes! There haven't been too many documented reports of attacks on humans by Pike, but many a dog, cat, duck, bird etc has met a sticky end...

John - There's a documented story in the book shown, about tan angler watching a line of ducklings being sucked down one after another, by a large pike. On the plus side they also eat rats!

Tom - plenty of toothy large predatory fish in Africa - inland and off-shore. Check out Jeremy Wade in River Monsters http://animal.discovery.com/tv/river-monsters/ if you haven't already seen this fantastic series...

Molly said...

I've never seen a pike. The jaws look a bit vicious on that picture. A memorable day with your Dad. I can see why you like fishing, Chris. Enjoyed reading your blog post.

Jim said...

Chris, I love your passion for this fish. Your story 'had me' from the start!
Here's to getting that key.

Cro Magnon said...

I remember catching one by mistake when I was about 7 or 8. I was petrified, and ended up just cutting the line.

Best recipe? Quenelles de Brochet.

Chris said...

Molly - The teeth are longer and narrower than that shown on the book jacket, but just as vicious, especially if you are a fish!

Jim - I'm also fascinated by sharks. Must be some sort of morbid fascination thing for dangerous fish. I think if you encounter things like this when you are young it stays with you through life...I don't swim in the sea.

Cro - predatory fish are attracted to the commotion caused by fish in distress so it's not uncommon to 'hook' one accidentally when playing another hooked fish on the end of a line.

Pike's teeth point backwards so it's sometimes difficult for them to let go once they've grabbed your Trout or whatever it is you've just hooked!

That recipe is in the book shown - looks yummy! :-;

Crow said...

I am glad you are back at the fishing. Enjoy the water while you wait for the big fish.

Following or fishing for your passion is the only way to go.

All my best, ~crow

Chris said...

Crow - I'll enjoy the water provided I don't fall in again. Not good to fall into the water in winter, not good...

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Wow, so proud of you for turning off the WV!!!!!!

Also, if you were so inclined, this would be a most excellent post to link up with Rural Thursday Chris. It's a fun way to connect w/ other bloggers :-)

Chris said...

Lisa - thanks. I know your are not a robot.

I'd like to link up once I've caught one or I'll feel like a bit of a fraud. The proof of the pudding and all that...

terrycardiff said...

I remember going to the 'fingers'. I witnessed a fishing buddy's float - not 12 feet away from mine slide away on a 'run'. He made the strike and played in a 26lb monster! best i've managed is only half that. The fish was probably 4 foot long. Caught from the last finger on the hand, so to speak...it had a head the size of a toddler :)

Chris said...

Terry - I've seen your pike photo mate - a monster! ;-)

I do hope you weren't using small children as bait. Teenagers are far more deserving.