BOTH AS a moralist and a fisherman, I was greatly shocked at Mr. Beamish’s article, “The Pike is no Piker,” which appeared in your issue of July 15.
How anyone who has the deep knowledge of pike nature which it is quite evident that Mr. Beamish possesses can defend, still less admire the creature, is as remarkable as it is sad.
But if Mr. Beamish’s attitude is remarkable, his reasoned defense of the pike is even more so. For, says Mr. Beamish, this fish is a great fish because he is a cannibal, a glutton, a killer and a devil.
Having so said, Mr. Beamish leans back complacently to await our applause, apparently under the impression that he has not only defended the pike from its detractors but raised it to a secure niche in our affections.
It has been said that a man should pray to be delivered from his friends, and if I were a pike I should certainly pray to be delivered from Mr. Beamish. May I be allowed to make my point clearer? If you were being tried under Section ninety-eight, would you not be surprised and even irritated if Mr. Beamish, on your behalf, pleaded not only for an acquittal but for a round of applause from the court, on the ground that you were a life-long bolshevik, had murdered the Czar, were giving your entire life to destroying the peace, order and good government of Canada?
Well then, why does Mr. Beamish—but perhaps I have said enough to indicate the shock which he has given to all good fishermen and moralists.
I do not, however, desire to be hard on Mr. Beamish. This is an age of toleration, or at any rate it ought to be. It does him credit to be able to admire anything so devoid of common decency as is this cannibal, glutton, killer and devil. These hard words are Mr. Beamish’s, not mine.
But while wishing to be tolerant, I do feel compelled to say this: If I could imagine myself defending the pike along the extraordinary lines laid down by Mr. Beamish, if I considered that gluttony and cannibalism were qualities of a sort to win the respect and admiration of mankind, I would at least be thorough. I w'ould make a complete job of it. And so I ask myself why does Mr. Beamish neglect or gloss over those other endearing traits and habits which every fisherman knows the pike to possess? Why does not Mr. Beamish come out boldly into the open and say: “Gentlemen, besides the above mentioned desirable characteristics, my protégé has further claims on your distinguished consideration. He has, for instance, a slime that is all his own; a slime
which covers him like a garment and which no other fresh-water fish can equal; a slime, too, which he will neglect no opportunity to attach to your person, your clothes and your boat. Furthermore, he smells to high heaven. Indeed smell is not the right word. He stinks, and he stinks so immensely, so pertinaciously, so enthusiastically, that if before he dies he can but flap himself across your pants or shirt, he will remain to you a fragrant memory in the days to come.
Also, let me draw your attention to his marvellous flavor, which I can only compare with that of a garbage-fed gull; a flavor which nothing except a two-hour baking in a hot oven can destroy or even disguise. Lastly, let me not forget his bones; those loose, innumerable and curiously Y-shaped bones which keep the eater vigorously on the alert and add a pleasant spice of danger to this “highly flavored and delicious dish.”
All these matters Mr. Beamish might have brought forward in order to dazzle a world not yet pike-conscious, and even then he would have by no means exhausted the list of this fish’s fishy attractions.
He would indeed have left untouched the pike’s chief claim to fame. I refer to its well-known ability to poison a man. If the brute succeeds in sinking his fangs into your fingers or in jabbing you with his fins, you can count yourself lucky if you do not have a badly poisoned hand. I know this from bitter experience. Personally I would rather have a rattlesnake in my boat than a vigorous young pike lashing about loose on the bottom boards. And that brings me to the gravest charge which can be levelled against Mr. Beamish’s favorite. The pike is no sportsman, for he does the bulk of his fighting after he climbs into your boat. Even then the cunning devil will be quiet till you have been compassionate enough to pull the hook out of him. Then and only then does the real ruckus start. The pike is what I would call a barroom fighter. Not for him the Queensberry rules. He likes to get well down on the floor. His fighting tactics are simple but shrewd. First, no fighter till the hook is gone, then a tornado of flipping, flapping, dodging and twisting; the object being to decoy you into a wrestling match with him on the slimy floor of the canoe. While you reach for his gills, he’s reaching for your fingers, and nine times out of ten he’ll reach first. Under these circumstances the odds are all in favor of the pike. If he doesn’t poison you, he’ll upset the canoe and drown you.
No novice should go pike fishing alone. Strictly speaking, it’s not fishing at all; it’s wrestling, and it’s wrestling with an opponent who’s greased from tail to snout and armed with poisoned teeth and poisoned needles; and this brings me to my final cause of quarrel with Mr. Beamish. If he had to write about the pike and encourage unsuspecting fishermen to engage in this sort of free-for-all rough-house, the least he could have done was to have pointed out the proper technique for handling the situation once the pike had been hooked. Since he has not seen fit to do this, I will.
To begin with, never go pike fishing alone. Take a trusted friend along with you, and as soon as you have hooked your pike order your companion to paddle hard for the nearest shore, preferably a rocky one. Arrived there, get out of the canoe and, holding firmly on to your line, walk inland till the pike is lying high and dry thirty feet from the water on a convenient rock. Then, grasping the line about three feet from the mouth of your fish, bang him to death on the stones. With any kind of luck he’ll come loose from the hook without your having to lay a finger on him. When this happens the sport is over. Walk quietly back to your canoe and tell your friend to paddle you home. But, as you value your health and comfort, don’t touch that pike dead or alive. Leave him where he is, you’re well rid ofI him.
I f the novice will follow these instructions, I’ll guarantee that he’ll get all there is and the best there is out of pike fishing. By which I mean that he won’t be poisoned, drowned, covered in slime or choked to death. If he thinks these rewards are insufficient, let him do as I do—stick to bass, trout and pickerel, and leave this killer and this devil to his own devices.—A. M. Mowat, Fenelon Falls, Ont.
Let’s have more fish stories. “The Pike Is No Piker” was an extremely interesting, instructive and cleverly written article.
The claim of the author that the pike is a tremendous eater and a cannibal, is certainly correct. Two years ago, while fishing in Northern Algoma, I observed six large pike devouring a baby moose which had apparently been dead several days and which was floating in a small eddy in a river.
Perhaps for this reason, I also have no interest in the pike as a dish of fish.—A. H. Rowan, Toronto.
Just a line from a guy who knows his fish, to say that the writer who was boosting i pike in a recent issue must have a stronger stomach than mine if he can eat those things and claim to like them. One meal of pike was one too many for me.
It was a good article though and I enjoyed reading it, because I do think it’s time that somebody called attention to the sporting possibilities these tough giants offer. I can tell you from my own experience that a healthy pike will give anyone a battle. I think the author deserves a word of praise for a well-written article which at last does justice to one of our fightingest fish. I’d like to see more articles from his pen.—C. J. Higgins, Toronto.
I was delighted with your story in which the writer had a good word to say for the Northern pike of the Nipigon waters.
Many of us here have fished the Nipigon rivers for their magnificent trout, and it is only lately that we have found out the virtues as a real fighter of the Northern pike.
It is great sport to hook a five-pound trout, but it is just as much fun to have a quarter of an hour or so with a twenty-to thirty-pound pike.
As regards the voracity of these freshwater wolves, I have caught them in Lake Manitoba with muskrats and wild ducks in their maw.
I notice in the picture that the fellowlanding the pike had the right technique, j “Grab him by the eyes” is the only method. : The mouth of the Mud River is the spot j : for pike and Wabonish Bay for pickerel. I Both are available from Bruce’s post at the j Mud River Bridge, near Willet, Ontario.— ! Bruce McBean, Winnipeg.
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