The Monster of Fay Lake This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 14, 2014
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I was an eleven-year-old boy, and I was on an adventure: fishing at Fay Lake Resort.
It’s a simple and perfect place. There are ten cabins, each with its own pier reaching out over the water. Right down the center of the resort runs an unmarked paved road, and opposite the cabins is a pool and a bar. Behind is a park. When our family visited, which was often, I always fished, my mom worked at the bar, my little brother was usually in the park, and my dad alternated between checking on us kids and hanging out in the bar with my mom and the friends we grew to know and love there.
I have spent hours fishing from each of those cabins. I have hauled dozens of buckets of cold minnow water up and down that road, have had a hundred sodas from the bar, witnessed thousands of shenanigans at the pool, and hurt myself falling off of every slide, swing, and pole in that park. Fay Lake Resort is and always will be special to me.
The place I spent the most time was the Wobbly Pier. It sat between cabins four and five, and its primary purpose was to dock the resort’s pontoon and general-purpose boat. This pier was given its creative name by yours truly, due to the fact that it wasn’t pinned to the lake floor but rather suspended by a big barrel type thing, which created a rather wobbly effect. Despite its inherit danger, I loved this pier, and I used to be infinitely proud of the fact that I – an eleven-year-old boy on a wobbly pier – could out-fish a dozen grown men spread across the lake in fishing boats.
My goal was the northern pike, and while it isn’t a particularly picky predator, it can be difficult to catch. Pike is the poster fish of Fay Lake: they were always being discussed in the bar and around the cabins. There were pictures of them everywhere, and overblown fisherman’s tales about them ran rampant. The fact that I often beat out older, more experienced fishermen in both quality and quantity of pike with my highly effective combination of tackle, technique, bait, and good looks was a point of great pride for me.
One fateful day, as was typical of my visits to Fay Lake, the fishing was going well, and I was having a perfectly enjoyable time. My dad, brother, and mom were in the bar, and I was on the Wobbly Pier. My gear was just right, I had two poles rigged up with green Spiderwire and blood red Daichi hooks. This green and red setup is a deadly duo and has landed me literally bucketfuls of fish. My bobber was sitting in just the right spot, slightly to my northwest, but not too north, and not too west, God forbid. I had a bucket of self-caught red tail river minnows, and a Dr. Pepper by my side. Best of all, it was getting close to prime time.
Prime time isn’t as much a time as a feeling you develop when fishing. It’s when the sun is setting just right behind the trees, the lake is still, all is quiet, and a man is happy. The bugs were awful, but this was the time when fishing was at its best, and I was willing to swat mosquitoes if it meant catching the big one.
As I sat there in my happy stupor, I noticed a commotion around my big pole’s bobber. I watched in quiet excitement as the bobber perked up, then dragged across the glassy water, and then lightning fast disappeared under the surface. With a smirk of confidence, I jerked the pole to set the hook – but missed the fish completely.
Nothing is as disappointing as feeling the pull of a fish on your line and then the sudden drop-off as it gets away. I reeled in the mangled remains of the poor minnow and put on a fresh one, but this time I cast just a little past where I felt I had lost the fish. As I hoped, it struck again, and this time I set the hook with all of my eleven-year-old might. I do believe I scrambled that fish’s brain and crossed its eyes.
The fight was a long one. Reeling in a fish is always fun but scary, because believe me, the only thing worse than suddenly losing a fish is the anxiety that you might lose a fish. However, I must have played it well, because here I am telling this story of how I successfully caught a thirty-inch northern pike.
I recall getting lots of pictures and being in an absolutely great mood. My previous largest pike had been twenty-seven inches, and beating that record on my favorite pier was pretty special. After much celebrating, we got my fish strung up on a chain in the water next to the pier, where it sat like a faithful, angry, slimy monster. After seeing my success, my dad ventured back to our cabin to grab more minnows. Soon after, the story took a fateful turn.
I was still fishing, and by now the bugs were making a feast of me. Suddenly I heard a rattle and a bump. Now, on that particular day, there was a paddleboat tied to the pier. I watched as something shoved that paddleboat aside like it was a freshman on the first day of school. I saw bubbles – hundreds of little bubbles. Never have bubbles been so sinister. Before I could comprehend what was going on, the chain holding my prized pike went taut and I felt the pier wobble. At first I assumed my pike was having an angst attack, as they often do. Peering into the depths, I saw a snapping turtle the size of a trash can lid with my pike in its powerful jaws. With mighty force, it was dragging my fish and that chain as far underwater as it could.
This moment gave new meaning to the term “double take.” Upon my spastic double take, I realized that the closest thing to a dinosaur I will ever see was tearing into my thirty-inch fish like it was cotton candy.
The turtle’s shell was covered in moss that looked older than me. This beast demanded attention with its mere presence. It had flippers bigger than my hands, its head was easily the size of a football, and I could hear every chomp it took out of my pike. This turtle was a monster, and it was eating my prized fish!
It was decision time. I could attempt to wrestle my fish away from the turtle. It may have been fast and powerful, but it couldn’t rip the chain from the pier, so there was still a chance to save my fish. My other option was to sit and watch it take my prize like a schoolyard bully.
Luckily my dad arrived just in time. The look on his face was priceless. Seeing the commotion, Katie, the ­resort owner, came over too, followed by a few hunters. They decided that the turtle needed to be brought on
land and inspected, presumably to make sure it wasn’t prehistoric or ­radioactive.
My dad and three of the hunters attempted to haul the monster from the water with a normal fishing net, which was a miserable failure. The net buckled under the weight of the turtle the second it was lifted out of the water. Katie ran to the shed and came back with a steel net. The question of why there was a massive steel net at the resort worries me to this day. However, this net, paired with the muscle and tenacity of four men, brought the beast out of the water and onto shore.
I remember some brave soul setting a soda can next to the monster for a size comparison. We figured we could fit about thirty soda cans inside the shell. Of course that number may have been exaggerated due to our excitement. It was probably more like twenty-nine.
After the crowd had had enough of gawking with the strange mixture of respect and terror, everybody dispersed, leaving me, my dad, Katie, and the hunters to return the monster to the depths of Fay Lake. I don’t recall how we managed this, but I think we thanked it for gracing us with its presence and told it that was free to go.
When Katie and the hunters left, my dad and I remembered the pike. We walked back to the pier and looked into the water at what was left. The fish was missing bits and pieces of flesh, and its previous fighting spirit seemed to have vanished. Looking back, I’m sure my dad was thinking that the best thing to do would be to release the pike and let nature run its course, but he seemed to know I couldn’t bear that quite yet. So we went into the bar, where the turtle was on everybody’s minds. When some people asked me about the fate of the pike, I told them I wasn’t sure what we were going to do, but in my mind I knew what had to be done.
When we were ready to leave, my dad and I walked out by the darkening lake, and I knew then that prime time was over and it was time to pack up my big pole and my little pole, put those blood red hooks in the eyelets, and give that green line time to dry.
Almost solemnly, we walked to the end of the Wobbly Pier and looked at my pike. When my dad pulled it up and I looked into those sad eyes, I knew its fate should be in nature’s hands. As if on cue, we saw a commotion in the water: bubbles rose, little fish darted away, and the surface broke as the monster turtle poked its head up and looked at us, just a few feet from the pier. We unhooked the pike and threw it to the turtle.
It was time to go home. We packed up my poles and tackle box, let the fortunate red-tails go, and carried my gear to the car. I cast one last glance at the resort before we left – at the bar, the pool, the cabins, the Wobbly Pier – and I think it was at that moment that I decided I truly loved that place.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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AnimeMan624 said...
Oct. 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm
You did really well on this memoir. Great Job!!!
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