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Dinosaur Pike

Could the fishing legends and stories be true?

Was there really a time forgotten pocket of monster pike lurking Little Weller Pond’s waters?

As far back as I can remember, since my days as a lad, whispered rumors and campfire stories have abounded. Legends of a remnant population of monster sized dinosaur pike lurking in the hidden depths of a remote Adirondack pond’s murky tannin-stained waters. Fishermen’s tales seemingly so farfetched as to be dismissed by most casual fireside listeners as pure mountain myth. Yet when regaled, old-timers sit back quietly, drawing another puff of smoke through their pipe as they knowingly smile and nod.

Monster fish experiences etched as anglers’ art on cedar log lean-to walls.

I am here to attest.

The legends are real.


I first ventured up into Little Weller Pond during late summer fishing trips with my dad when I was about nine years old. We still lived in Lake Placid at the time, having moved there a year earlier from Northville.

Even before my first foray up into that remote little backwater pond, as a kid growing up fishing with my dad on our little boat docked on the Great Sacandaga Lake, I’d had my own firsthand encounters, catching pike so big that to a small boy they seemed sharklike. Some of those pike were so big and full of teeth that my dad would forego the net and just gaff them.

I remember one story my dad told me, about NYSDEC divers who went down one day to do repairs on the Sacandaga Lake dam. He told me those divers came out of the water and refused to dive again because there were pike swimming around down there that were bigger than they were.

So, I was accustomed to such tales when Dad first told me he’d heard similar stories about monster northerns patrolling the waters of a lightly fished, off the main grid, Adirondack backwater pond.

I remember being filled with anticipation the first time Dad and I fished our way up into Little Weller. We trolled our way across Lower Saranac and up the river, where I learned to work the then unfamiliar lock mechanisms. We trolled some more up through the rest of the river, then around all the middle lake islands, before navigating all the rock warning danger buoys and making our way along the contours of Hungry Bay, past the old Martha Reben lean-to, across the bay into the stream access to Weller Pond.

Dad and I trolled mainly with jointed Rapala’s. Those black and gold lures are still to this day my “go to” pike and bass favorite. Where the water was deep, sometimes Dad trolled yellow flatfish with black and red spots. I fished with them a lot when we fished on the Sacandaga, but I quickly grew tired of them up in Middle Saranac because they just seemed to drag bottom, pick up weeds, and get snagged a lot.

I had to reel in and trail my lure tight behind the boat as Dad navigated up the Weller Pond access channel. I could see small bass and perch in the water. I don’t recall on that first trip whether I hooked one or not.

As Weller Pond came into view, Dad idled the engine and instructed me to reel in. At that point we still had our little fourteen-foot open hulled aluminum Starcraft with a 25HP rear tiller 2 Stroke ripcord started Johnson. I remember that motor always tainted the air in the boat with an engine smell and left a slight reflective trail of oil on the water. I was glad when we finally got a bigger boat with a new electric start motor, because that old Johnson always made my young boy’s stomach a bit nauseous.

We turned right into an even shallower tight little meandering flow. An array of half-submerged rotting lily pad masses randomly bobbed in our path. My job at that point was to stand in the front of the boat, manning Dad’s big wooden canoe paddle to push them out of the way and keep us from running aground.

The deerflies were really bad in there. The whole place smelled like swamp. Dad pointed out something I’d never seen to that point, pitcher plants. I thought it was really cool when he told me they were rare carnivorous plants that trapped and ate insects. Despite the bugs and the smell, I felt like we were on a real backwoods wilderness adventure. I couldn’t wait to get my line back in the water as Little Weller Pond itself finally came into view.

Little Weller Pond was small, calm and quiet. The shores were lined with lily pad beds. Its waters were dark. We trolled back and forth several times without success, along the edges of the lily pads, and crisscrossing the pond’s center. We even tried cutting the engine, drifting and casting. After about an hour of effort, somewhat disappointed, we re-traced our steps, father and son, empty handed.

Despite that initial fishless effort, Dad insisted there were big pike in Little Weller. Every time we camped or fished up on Middle Saranac Lake, we would make our way up through that channel in the hopes of hooking into one of the monster fish Dad had me convinced lurked unseen in that small pond’s rank smelling muck bottomed waters.

This fishing ritual went on for several years. It became our routine. Dad and I would fish our way up across Middle Saranac Lake, work our way into Litle Weller Pond, troll around, cast a line, and catch nothing.

At some point or another, Dad and I undertook an effort to begin exploring the depth level of Little Weller Pond’s bottom. We tried snorkeling first. That endeavor proved utterly useless. That water was so dark we couldn’t see anything once underwater. Not a single ray of sunlight penetrated the surface of those muck bottomed waters. When we climbed back in the boat to take off our masks and dry off, our hair, suits and skin smelled like fermenting swamp.

Dad was convinced there was a deep hole somewhere in that pond. His theory, based on all the stories he’d heard, was that there was some sort of underground aquifer lake hidden deep beneath Little Weller Pond’s floor, and that once we pinpointed where it fed into the pond, we’d find monster pike.

So, we began dropping anchor and measuring rope depth all over the pond. By that point I was twelve or thirteen years old. Dad and I had by that time caught a good many big pike elsewhere on the Saranac Lake chain, but I had still had never in my life caught a single fish on that pond. Nor, at least when we were fishing together, had my father. Which, in and of itself, I somehow found remarkably odd.

We worked in concentric circles, working our way slowly from the edge of the lily pads in towards the pond’s middle. We slowly inched forward, me in the front, holding our boat anchor out over the gunwale by its short chain, which was secured by one of Dad’s trusty boat knots to a fifty-foot length of heavy-duty anchor rope, awaiting Dad’s order to drop.

About every eight to ten feet, I dropped anchor, letting the boat rope quickly slide through my hands. Every water depth rope measurement came back almost exactly the same; eight feet. Little Weller Pond’s bottom proved to be remarkably flat. Until, quite suddenly, it didn’t.

It happened on our third concentric circle, about fifteen yards in from the edge of the lily pads, on the left side of the pond, about two thirds of the way towards the back. I was sitting in the front of the boat, holding the anchor, which was mucked up and dripping, awaiting Dad’s next order to drop. Dad’s command came. The anchor splashed into the water. Anchor line slid quickly slid through my hands. Before my teenage brain registered what was happening, the last bit of that fifty-foot anchor line disappeared over the side of the boat, and with it our anchor.

We both looked over the side of the boat, then at each other, a bit speechless and wide-eyed. I’m not sure which Dad was more of, excited or annoyed. We’d just lost his good boat anchor. Of course it was my fault. I’d neglected to tie off the end. But we’d accomplished our mission. We’d found Weller Pond’s little secret. It was indeed hiding some sort of deep underground hole.

Once we recovered from our initial shock, we took to visually marking the spot, before our now anchorless boat drifted too far off its mark. There was a long cedar tree snag hanging out from Little Weller Pond’s backside shore about twenty yards left of where an unmarked bushwack trail towards the fronting peak to Boot Bay Mountain began ascending uphill. Dad spotted an old beaver house perpendicularly centered in the bog on the pond bank to our left. Using those two natural landmarks, we mentally marked our spot.

We trolled back and forth over that area that day for nearly an hour. Dad even tried jigging the hole with a bright yellow lead weighted bucktail. Nothing tauted our line. Dad and I once again returned home, this time both fishless and anchorless, having yet again experienced nary a strike.

Dad and I fished over what we were quite sure was Little Weller Pond’s hidden monster pike hole several more times through the course of that fishing season, and the next, and the next one after that. By that point our fishless excursions into Little Weller Pond had begun feeling a bit less like routine and a bit more like tradition. Our ongoing quest for one of Little Weller Pond’s fabled dinosaur monster pike became something of a bit too humorously regaled for our liking family campfire tale.

Then, when I was about fifteen, or maybe I was sixteen, it’s hard to remember exactly. It’s been so long now. At any rate, it was a day in late June. I remember that clearly because we always went into camp for two weeks right after the school year let out. Our family was set up at the lean-to in Bull Rush Bay, camping. Dad and I did what we always did. We geared up the boat and went fishing.

We hit Little Weller Pond a bit later than usual that day. The sky was a bit overcast, the water dead calm. Rain was definitely on the horizon. We would not be able to stay long. Instead of trolling the pond, we decided to cut the engine and try a few casts. It’s funny the little details from that afternoon that remain clearly etched in my memory. Dad was throwing a sinking black and gold Rebel. I had on a good-sized red and white Daredevil.

Not really expecting much of anything, suddenly on about my third or fourth cast, something heavy suddenly struck my lure. My line immediately went taut. My drag whined. My pole bent over double. I attempted to reel. It felt like I’d hooked into a log.

I fought that fish for what felt like an hour. Dad coached the whole time, “Rod tip up! Rod tip up!” as he scanned water’s surface, manning our oversized pike fishing net.

We were both sure I had hooked into a really big pike. It towed our boat around the middle of Little Weller Pond in circles as I reeled. Finally, something broke water eight or ten feet from the boat. It looked like a fin. Then the monster fish dove again, nearly pulling me overboard with it. We played this game of run back and forth several times. How it didn’t break my pole or snap my line, I’ll never know. I just thank God that I’d tied a brand-new steel leader on just that morning. I didn’t always.

Then, near the stern starboard side of the boat, a swirl. Something massive and dark, like a jagged log, broke the water. Dad plunged the net deep with both hands and pulled. We’d successfully netted a good many big pike in that net through the years, including several measuring well over thirty-six inches. Not to be this day, however. As Dad attempted to pull the net from the water, its aluminum handle snapped and broke.

At that point, the monster pike, or whatever it was, had had quite enough. Its rose up out of the water, thrashing. I swear to this day, that pike’s head alone filled what remained of that net. In an instant, the whole thing was over. The pike shook its head, snapped my line, and disappeared headfirst in one massive swoop, taking with it the front half of our net and my Daredevil lure, steel leader and all.

Dad and I stood there for a moment, speechless. What had just happened? Had we really both just seen what we saw? We’d successfully boated three-foot pike in that net. I think our net broke holding not much more than that monster pike’s head. As we gathered our wits about us, Dad and I both agreed. That dinosaur pike had to have measured at least a good four feet.

We returned to camp before it got dark and shared our day’s tale. Dad and I returned to Little Weller Pond religiously over the course of the next several decades. We fished that same exact spot many times. My dad has since passed. I’ve never to this day caught another fish, monster pike or otherwise, on that pond. I cannot explain why.

Regardless, rest assured, time forgotten secrets lurk depths hidden deep beneath a remote Adirondack pond’s murky tannin-stained waters. The legends and stories are true. Little Weller Pond is home to dinosaur monster pike. This I know for a fact. Because my dad and I one fateful late June afternoon nearly caught one.


Until Our Trails Cross Again:


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