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A Fish Tale; The Big One That Did Not Get Away
by Mike Pietkiewicz
Some of my fondest memories as a young boy and teenager are of fishing the lakes, rivers and ponds of Western New York and Western Pennsylvania with my grandfather or "Pap" as we called him. Pap was a plumber by trade, but his true passion was fishing and he always carried a pole or two in the car in case he came upon what looked to be a good fishing hole.

When I was approached about becoming a member of the Great Lakes Experience Board I jumped at the chance to help fight to preserve the wonderful resources I learned about from Pap and to assist in helping to educate future fisherman and outdoorsman about the same.

Jackson This past summer, my five year old son Jackson and I were invited out to a friend's hunting lodge in New Albion, Cattaraugus County to go fishing and hiking for the weekend. There is a spring fed pond on their property that a previous owner had stocked in the early 70's with large mouth black bass. My friend tells me they have never had to re-stock the pond and the only threat to the fish is the occasional snapping turtle or raccoon.

My friend and his 6 year old son, Devin, had arrived early Friday and had caught no less than 15 bass during the day. Devin had never been fishing before and when we arrived at dusk on Friday night he eagerly and excitedly shared his fish stories with Jackson; adding to our anticipation. We had dinner and I showed Jackson the finer points of using a push button reel while we plotted an early morning fishing expedition.

Morning came and after breakfast we set out to the pond to fish. Devin chose his favorite spot and Jackson picked a spot not far from Devin and after baiting the hook with a night crawler; I cast out for the first time since my teenage years! Jackson took the rod and reel and within 5 minutes Jackson had his first fish on the line! He tried to reel it in a bit too quickly and as he got it near the shore, the fish unhooked itself. Undeterred, night crawler still intact, we cast again and within five minutes he had his second fish on the line…this time he got it: ! An 8" largemouth bass!

Now an experienced angler, Jackson wanted to cast out by himself. So we walked through the process of casting again, did a couple of "practice" casts without releasing the push button and were ready to go. We swung the pole to our right, moved it forward and Jackson didn't release the button. The hook and worm swung around back at us and caught my upper lip! Worm wiggling on my face; I calmly called my friend over to access the situation. Thankfully my facial hair and a worm covering the barb prevented the hook from going deep into my lip because in his excitement and nervousness, Jackson tugged the line and the hook popped out! It's a story we will share for a lifetime; about the "big one" (me) that did not get away!