Monday, August 9, 2010

A Story About Trout

Memory and dreams are famously suspect, but we should always remember that stories can be just as unreliable. I have a story that I like to tell about Trout, the fish, how powerful and voracious they are, and how mere Piranha, for example, are no match for Trout. In my story, they become the leviathans of the lakes, masters of all that they survey, except maybe Northern Pike, which seem to be something similar, only more so. It might even be true. Might.

My personal experience with Lake Trout is limited to one fishing excursion that happened long ago. I was probably thirteen-years-old. My family vacationed throughout my childhood at Lake George, in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. It’s a huge, deep lake. This particular Summer, emboldened by success fishing for Sunfish off of the dock, I resolved to set off for deep water in search of bigger game. I was using raw bacon for bait. Most of my fishing experience had been fishing off that dock, or at home in the city, fishing in the East River, where technically one is fishing for Flounder but generally catches only Eels, which must be even stupider than fish, they seem to bite at anything.

I rented a smallish, leaky rowboat, rental fee one dollar per day, no extra charge for the bailing can, and set out for the middle of the lake. I realize now that this was very foolhardy, the lake was about a mile across at that point and I literally went to the middle. At some point I got a strong bite. Reeling in my catch, I was most favorably impressed with the power of the creature. I got it to within a couple of feet of the gunwale, where through the crystal clear water I could see something of the dimensions and disposition of the thing. It was a big thing, and it was obviously very, very angry.

At that point the fish made a last, herculean effort, and it broke the line. I was relieved, to tell the truth; I knew that I was totally unprepared to confront such a thing in the boat.

Much later I encountered a news article that served as the framework for my story about Trout. A pet store in England had obtained a pair of Trout with the intention of selling them for home aquariums, however unlikely that sounds, considering the size and dietary requirements of Trout. Now that I think of it, the idea may have been to sell people the steady diet of substantial fish that the Trout would require.

The unsuspecting pet store owners put the Trout in a large tank with some other fish, fed them what they believed would be enough to keep them all happy, and set out for home, thinking that all was well. There were numerous such large tanks in the store, and most of the fish seemed to get along just fine. The adjacent tank contained Piranhas, and only Piranhas, they were isolated because the owners believed them to be dangerous to other fish. Evidently they had considered Trout only as a good dinner up to then, that or they were misinformed.

They arrived at the shop the next morning to a strangely calm scene: one Trout in the original tank, and one Trout in the Piranha tank, both swimming solo. The Trout had consumed all of the fish in the first tank, and then one of them, having noticed the very appetizing Piranhas so close by, had migrated by air to the Piranha tank and proceeded to eat all of them too.

I don’t remember where I read this story, except to say that it was not Mad Magazine or something. I think it was one of those Associated Press wire “shaggy dog” stories that were used to fill in the small spaces in newspapers. Remember newspapers? So I can in no way vouch for the truth of the story. Furthermore, I never had any information regarding the size, number or general health of the Piranhas. So who knows?

The story seems to suggest that Trout can lunch on Piranhas at will, but important information might be missing. Maybe Piranhas need to achieve some critical mass of numbers before they can really assert themselves; maybe the Piranhas in the tank were juveniles; maybe the Trout were toxic mutants.

I still think it’s a good story. The Trout that I came face-to-face with back at the lake sure looked like he could handle himself. I’d recommend taking the pet store story with a grain of salt, though. Probably good advice for any story that you just hear from somebody, and most of the ones that you read too, even from the A.P.


Vince said...

That's a great Lake George recollection. You must have been crazy to venture that far out in the lake. That was a deep lake and, as you know, it could get a bit dicey at times. When my Mom & Walter, Mike & Pat and Mary & Marion visited there about a dozen years ago, they were on one of those tourist pontoon boats. Well, a storm came out of nowhere and they had a heck of a time getting back to the dock at Bolton's Landing. The boat was taking on water as the pontoons were being swamped. They were freaking out.

fred c said...

I was lucky that the weather held. It was "Number 6," if I recall, which we thought of as the hip rowboat, but seaworthy? not so much.