In a panicked whirlwind of flailing arms and shouting, I hit it on the head with my stick as hard as I could – an attempt to end its life as quickly and humanely as possible.

Catching the Big One

Written By Louisa Mow in the Adirondack Mountains, New York State
Dawn on Sunday morning had streams of mist hovering above the lake. We set out for a short hike in the woods with bags of trail mix and fishing bait and eventually found the perfect place to set up camp, fish, and light a warm fire. Our camp was a little grove bordered by dense woodland, and a small rocky outcrop that lead onto the lake through a doorway of birch branches.

By Midday the sun was bright above us and the weather was pleasantly warm. We each found a spot to sunbathe and took turns fishing, sometimes reeling in sunnies, perch, bluegills, and largemouth bass. But what we were really hoping for was a Saranac Pike.

If we weren't fishing we were carving wood with our pocket knives or taking long pleasant walks through the woodland or along the banks of the lake. We drove back and forth into Saranac town often, to buy basic supplies and different lures or baits as we needed them. We really wanted to catch a big Pike.
Late on Monday evening after a full day with no takers and only a few nibbles, we were ready to give up and turn in for the night, when it happened. As the sun was beginning to set, Caleb decided to try one last time, using the only spinner left in the tackle box, reeling in and casting out over and over, careful not to get it snagged.

I was sitting in the tent when I heard shouting, and I realized that he had finally hooked a big one. I stumbled through the bushes and out onto the battlefield to meet him. He was fighting hard, rod bent double, just hoping the fish wouldn't bite through his line. Pike have very sharp teeth and Caleb had no steel leaders left to assist him. I grabbed the biggest chunk of wood (a long thick branch) I could find and waited, poised  ready to strike. Finally, Caleb brought into the shallows, and with one last heave brought the tired monster onto land. A soon as it left the water the fish thrashed violently, snapping the line and flopping back towards the edge of the rock. In a panicked whirlwind of flailing arms and shouting, I hit it on the head with my stick as hard as I could – an attempt to end its life as quickly and humanely as possible. We thought for a moment that we had almost lost it, but we had managed to catch a one-meter long and five-kilogram Pike. It was absolutely massive. What a triumph! We baked it in the camp fire, wrapped in tinfoil with tomatoes, chorizo, and garlic, lemon and olive oil-- our delicious reward from days of hard fishing. See, it really pays to travel with two chefs!


On Tuesday, it began to rain a little and Ilaria was starting to feel unwell, so while she bundled up in the tent Caleb and I headed off on one last hike hike. The rain got persistently heavier until eventually we were caught in a thunderstorm. We had to dash through the woods quickly as lightning stuck above us and by the time we got back we were thoroughly wet. The temperature dropped dramatically that evening, and Ilaria was smart enough to head back to the car to sleep in the blissful warmth. Meanwhile, back at the tent, Caleb and I almost froze to death, and very early in the morning we packed up as quickly as possible, with the resolution to head as far south as possible. As we drove off into the drizzly gray morning, the thermometer read just 3 degrees - such is life during spring in upstate New York