Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Voices from the Past: H.H. Thompson

Voices from the Past: H.H. Thompson

This week I was able to schedule a conference over my fall break from the university, and managed to sneak in some fishing in the great sand country of Northern Wisconsin made so famous by the great Aldo Leopold. Fishing the northern waters of course gets one thinking of the King of Waters, the muskellunge. This got me thinking of an article I ran into while doing research on a forthcoming book on W.D. Chapman that concerned the musky. Written by H.H. Thompson, a correspondent for Forest & Stream, it is an early conservationist article decrying the spearing of fish on the famed Indian River, the same flowing waters utilized for years as a source of power for W.D. Chapman of Theresa, New York.

Protest Against Spearing Fish

by H.H. Thompson

New York, December 28, 1874

I feel sure of a place in your columns for a lamentation I am forced to utter over an unwelcome bit of information picked up during a recent visit to Theresa, Jeff. County, in this State. And I am equally sure of your sympathy, if you have ever had an exciting bout with a large mascalonge (Esox estor) at the end of eighteen feet of line, without a reel, attached to a natural rod of true-tapering, springy hemlock of same length.

"This magnificent fish, which is the finest, largest, and most excellent food of all the pike family, is the boldest, fiercest, and most voracious of fresh-water fish." These are the words of Henry William Herbert, whose drawing, from nature, on wood, in Frank Forester's "Fish and Fishing," is the most correct and life-like picture of the mascalonge ever published.

Indian River rises in our great Northern wilderness, and discharges itself into the St. Lawrence by Black Lake and Oswegatchie River. That portion of the stream—say twenty miles—between the falls at Theresa and Rossie Rapids, and two lovely lakes connected with it, have been the best waters within my knowledge for sport with fish; and would be now, were it not for the illegal spearing, which the prominent sporting residents neglect to suppress.

And here comes in my Jeremiad. I am told that few mascalonge were taken with rod and line last season, and that their number is evidently diminishing, for the disgraceful reason mentioned. Let me beg such men as Rodney Symonds, W.D. Chapman, Joseph Fayel, Charles Fiske, Ambrose Walradt, George E. Yost, and other well known anglers, to exert themselves to prevent the extinction of such murderous practices, in violation of law, of this noble pike, whose gamey and table qualities used to attract so many visitors to Indian River from far and near.

The last named is member elect to our Assembly, and if additional legislation is needed will, I am confident, be able to procure it. He will find a hearty coadjutator in Gen. Richard U. Sherman, of Oneida County, who will be one of the most useful and influential members of the House, and who numbers among his pleasantest fishing experiences a trip, years ago, down Indian River.

-- Dr. Todd

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