The other day, I came across a photo of a nice mess of fish that I caught many years ago on the Au Sable River just downstream from Whiteface Mountain.

Back then, it was not difficult to catch a large number of nice trout each day. Most of them averaged about 10-12 inches long.

I'm sure by the time I got back home, the length of the biggest one grew considerably. That's the way it goes. When we stretch our hands out to show the size of the fish, they seem to get a little farther apart every time we tell the story.

So I thought it might be interesting to talk about some of the "big ones." After all, it seems that the big ones always get away.

I guess the biggest fish I ever caught on a rod and reel was a 5 1/2-foot lemon shark. We were fishing out in the Gulf of Mexico for grouper and snapper when the yellowish creature took my bait. I had it to the side of the boat several times before he finally chewed through the line. The captain of the fishing boat seemed as happy as the fish. He didn't want anything with that many teeth flopping around in the small confines of the boat.

Sure I've landed many Chinook salmon in the tributaries of Lake Ontario. It was not uncommon to hook 25- and 30-pounders on a regular basis. While trolling off the Nine Mile Three Nuclear Power Plant, we put several huge, football-shaped brown trout into the boat. The fishery there has been spectacular over the years.

But every once in a while, you tie into something big, and often, it's not what you expect. More than 30 years ago, I was trolling for rainbows and splake trout on Arnolds Lake with Bob Palmer. We were using No. 3 Leatherstocking lures when I hit into something heavy.

I thought I was hooked on the bottom until it started to come up. As the thing on the end of my line approached the surface, I realized it was no Loch Ness Monster. It was a large, plastic bag filled with garbage and some other disgusting stuff.

The biggest object I ever hooked into was while fishing on Otsego Lake just below Three Mile Point. Bob and I had gone up early on a Saturday morning to catch some Otsego bass.

By mid-morning, the sun was up and other boats were going by. There were a couple of speed boats pulling water skiers back-and-forth. An older couple cruised in their early wooden inboard craft, while sheets fluttered in the wind from the numerous sailboats that raced by.

We decided it was getting a little crowded, so we made a turn to head over toward King Fisher Tower. We picked up a little speed when I had a strike. The rod was nearly yanked from my hands by the huge fish. I wondered if it was one of those giant lakers that usually lurk in the depths of that deep glacial lake.

There was no doubt that I had a huge fish on as it headed diagonally toward shore. Huge fish? Right! It was a Sunfish sailboat. My lure had hooked into the keel of the boat as it crossed our path. As they pulled the keel and unhooked my lure, I realized it's sometimes best when the big one actually does get away.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. E-mail him at

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