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But if these relations be disbelieved,—it is too evident to
relation was inserted as an article of news in one of the London papers, Jan. 2nd, 1765 :—
Extract of a letter from Littleport. Dec. 17.
"About ten days ago, a large pike was caught in the river Ouse; which weighed upwards of twenty-eight pounds, and was sold to a gentleman in the neighbourhood for a guinea. As the cook-maid was gutting the fish, she found, to her great astonishment, a watch with a black ribbon, and two steel seals annexed, in the body of the pike; the gentleman's butler, upon opening the watch, found the maker's name, Thomas Cranefield, Burnham,. Norfolk. Upon a strict inquiry, it appears that the said watch was sold to. a gentleman's servant, who was unfortunately drowned about six weeks. ago, in his way to Cambridge, between this place and South-Ferry. The watch is still in the possession of Mr. John Roberts, at the Cross Keys, in. Littleport, for the inspection of the public."
And this in the same paper, the 25th of the same month and year:— "On Tuesday last, at Lillishall lime-works, near Newport, a pool about nine yards deep, which has not been fished for ages, was let off, by means of a level brought up to drain the works; when an enormous pike was found he was drawn out by a rope fastened round his head and gills, amidst hundreds of spectators, in which service a great many men were employed he weighed upwards of one hundred and seventy pounds and is thought to be the largest ever seen. Some time ago, the clerk of the parish was trolling in the above pool, when his bait was seized by this furious creature, which by a sudden jerk pulled him in, and doubtless would have devoured him also, had he not by wonderful agility and dexterous swimming, escaped the dreadful jaws of this voracious animal.”
In Dr. Plot's "History of Staffordshire," p. 246, are sundry relations of pike of great magnitude; one, in particular, caught in the Thame, an ell and two inches long.
The following story, containing further evidence of the voracity of this fish, with the addition of a pleasant circumstance, is in Fuller's "Worthies, Lincolnshire," p. 144:—
"A cub fox, drinking out of the river Arnus in Italy, had his head seized on by a mighty pike, so that neither could free themselves, but were ingrappled together. In this contest a young man runs into the water, takes them out both alive; and carrieth them to the Duke of Florence, whose palace was hard by. The porter would not admit him, without promising of sharing his full half in what the duke should give him; to which he (hopeless, otherwise, of entrance) condescended. The duke, highly affected with the rarity, was about giving him a good reward; which the other refused, desiring his highness would appoint one of his guard to give him an hundred lashes, that so his porter might have fifty, according to his composition. And here my intelligence leaveth me how much farther the jest was followed."
Fuller also relates-from a book entitled "Vox Piscis," printed in 1626-that one Mr. Anderson, a townsman and merchant of Newcastle, talking with a friend on Newcastle bridge, and fingering his ring, let it fall.
be doubted, that a pike will devour a fish, of his own kind,1 that shall be bigger than his belly or throat will receive, and swallow a part of him, and let the other part remain in his mouth till the swallowed part be digested, and then swallow that other part that was in his mouth, and so put it over by degrees, which is not unlike the ox and some other beasts taking their meat-not, out of their mouth, immediate into their belly, but first into some place betwixt, and then chew it, or digest it by degrees after, which is called chewing the cud. And, doubtless, pikes will bite when they are not hungry; but as some think, even for very anger, when a tempting bait comes near to them.
And it is observed, that the pike will eat venomous things, as some kind of frogs are, and yet live without being harmed by them; for, as some say, he has in him a natural balsam, or antidote against all poison. And he has a strange heat, that though it appears to us to be cold, can yet digest or put over, any fish-flesh by degrees, without being sick. And others observe, that he never eats the venomous frog till he have first killed her, and then-as ducks are observed to do to frogs in spawning time, at which time some frogs are observed to be venomous-so thoroughly washed her, by tumbling her up and down in the water, that he may devour her without danger. And Gesner affirms, that a Polonian gentleman did faithfully assure
into the river but it having been swallowed by a fish,-and the fish afterwards taken, -the ring was found and restored to him.-H. Ephemera says, "I believe the largest pike ever caught in the British Isles was that caught many years ago, and the weight of which was about 92lbs., in the river Shannon, by some visitors at Portumna Castle, the family seat of the Marquis of Clanricarde. I never myself saw a pike that weighed more than 33 lbs; but Mr. Grove and other fishmongers tell me they have frequently had Dutch pike weighing upwards of 40 lbs., and sometimes reaching 50 lbs."
1 A pike of a large size was taken in the river Ouse, by fastening on a lesser one, as the person was drawing it out of the water, who thus caught them both.-BROWNE. The keeper of Richmond Park sent me a pike of about seven pounds weight which had been killed, in consequence of its having attempted to swallow a pike nearly as large as itself.-ED.
3 A pike will, perhaps, feed as readily on frogs as anything. I am not aware what Walton means by some kind of frogs being venomous. Did he include toads? And even the secretion from the pustules of the toad is merely acrid and not venomous.-ED.
This is obviously quite fanciful.—ED.
him, he had seen two young geese, at one time, in the belly of a pike. And doubtless a pike, in his height of hunger, will bite at and devour a dog that swims in a pond; and there have been examples of it, or the like; for as I told you, "The belly has no ears when hunger comes upon it."
The pike is also observed to be a solitary, melancholy, and a bold fish; melancholy, because he always swims or rests himself alone; and never swims in shoals, or with company, as roach and dace, and most other fish do;. and bold, because he fears not a shadow, or to see or be seen of anybody, as the trout and chub, and all other fish do.
And it is observed by Gesner, that the jaw-bones, and hearts, and galls of pikes, are very medicinable for several diseases, or to stop blood, or abate fevers, to cure agues, to oppose or expel the infection of the plague, and to be many ways medicinable and useful for the good of mankind; but he observes, that the biting of a pike is venomous, and hard to be cured.
And it is observed, that the pike is a fish that breeds but once a year, and that other fish, as namely, loaches, do breed oftener, and so, we are certain, tame pigeons do almost every month; and yet the hawk, a bird of prey, as the pike is a fish, breeds but once in twelve months. And you are to note, that his time of breeding or spawning, is usually about the end of February, or, somewhat later, in March, as the weather proves colder or warmer ; and to note, that his manner of breeding is thus; a he and she pike will usually go together out of a river into some ditch or creek, and that there the spawner casts her eggs, and the melter hovers over her all that time she is casting her spawn, but touches her not.2
I might say more of this: but it might be thought curiosity or worse;-and shall, therefore, forbear it; and, take
1 I used annually to lose many young ducks, some of them of good size, in the waters of Hampton Court Gardens, in consequence of pike preying on them.-ED.
2 A paper in the 'Philosophical Transactions for 1754,' contradicts Walton's account, and asserts that fish generate like other animals; but Walton is now found to be right. No sexual conjunction takes place. The female deposits her spawn which the male fecundates by covering it with his milt.-ED.
up so much of your attention, as to tell you, that the best of pikes are noted to be in rivers; next, those in great ponds or meres; and the worst, in small ponds.
But before I proceed further, I am to tell you, that there is a great antipathy betwixt the pike and some frogs and this may appear to the reader of Dubravius,' a Bishop in Bohemia, who in his book "Of Fish and Fish-ponds," relates what, he says, he saw with his own eyes, and could not forbear to tell the reader. Which was :-
"As he and the Bishop Thurzo were walking by a large pond in Bohemia, they saw a frog-when the pike lay, very sleepily and quiet, by the shore side-leap upon his head; and the frog having expressed malice or anger by his swollen cheeks and staring eyes, did stretch out his legs, and embraced the pike's head, and presently reached them to his eyes, tearing, with them and his teeth, those tender parts: the pike, moved with anguish, moves up and down the water, and rubs himself against weeds, and whatever he thought might quit him of his enemy; but all in vain, for the frog did continue to ride triumphantly, and to bite and torment the pike, till his strength failed; and then the frog sunk with the pike to the bottom of the water: then, presently, the frog appeared again at the top; and croaked, and seemed to rejoice like a conqueror; after which,he presently retired to his secret hole. The Bishop, that had beheld the battle, called his fisherman to fetch his nets, and by all means to get the pike that they might declare what had happened: and the pike was drawn forth; and both his eyes eaten out, at which when they began to wonder, the fisherman wished them to
1 Janus Dubravius Scala, bishop of Olmutz in Moravia, in the sixteenth century, was born at Pilsen in Bohemia; was sent ambassador into Sicily, and made President of the Chamber which tried the rebels of Smalcald. Besides the above book, (the Latin title whereof is "De Piscinis, et Piscium qui in eis aluntur, naturis,) he wrote in Latin, a "History of Bohemia ;" and an oration to Sigismund, king of Poland, exhorting him to make war on the Turks. He seems to have practised the ordering of fishponds and the breeding of fish, both for delight and profit. His book "On Fish and Fish-ponds, in which are many pleasant relations, was, in 1599, translated into English, and published in quarto, by George Churchey, fellow of Lion's Inn, with the title of "A new Book of good Husbandry, very pleasant and of great profit, both for gentlemen and yeomen, containing the order and manner of making of fish-ponds," &c.-H.
forbear, and assured them, he was certain that pikes were often so served."1
I told this, which is to be read in the sixth chapter of the first book of Dubravius, unto a friend, who replied, "It was as improbable as to have the mouse scratch out the cat's eyes.' But he did not consider, that there be fishing-frogs, which the Dalmatians call the water-devil, of which I might tell you as wonderful a story: but I shall tell you, that 'tis not to be doubted, but that there be some frogs so fearful of the water-snake, that when they swim in a place in which they fear to meet with him, they then get a reed across into their mouths; which, if they two meet by accident, secures the frog from the strength and malice of the snake; and note, that the frog, usually, swims the fastest of the two.
And let me tell you, that as there be water and landfrogs, so there be land and water - snakes.2 Concerning which, take this observation, that the land-snake breeds and hatches her eggs-which be
come young snakes-in some old dunghill, or a like hot place but the water-snake, which is not venomous, and as I have been assured by a great observer of such secrets, does not hatch but breed her young alive; which she does not then forsake, but bides with them; and in case of danger, will take them all into her mouth, and swim away
1 Mr. Pennant, in his " Zoology," 4to, Lond. 1766, vol. iv. p. 10, has the following remark on this passage of the " Complete Angler :"
"As frogs adhere closely to the backs of their own species, so we know they will do the same by fish. Walton mentions a strange story of their destroying Pike; but that they will injure, if not entirely kill carp, is a fact indisputable from the following relation: A very few years ago, on fishing a pond belonging to Mr. Pitt, of Encombe, Dorsetshire, great numbers of the Carp were found each with a frog mounted on it, the hind legs clinging to the back, the fore-legs fixed in the corner of each eye of the fish, which were thin and greatly wasted, teazed by carrying so disagreeable a load. These frogs we imagine to have been males disappointed of a mate."-SIR H. ELLIS. See more on this subject at p. 210.
2 This is erroneous.
But the common English snake frequently takes to the water, and they have been seen swimming between the Hampshire coast and the Isle of Wight, which may have given rise to an idea of a water