The catching of a monster pike
An Irishman’s Diary: The one that didn’t get away
‘Fred Buller, following his world-wide travels recording catches of monster pike, is convinced that the catch of the Lough Derg monster is authentic.’ Above, file image of a pike. Photograph: Getty Images
Frank McNally recently told us the story of the River Finn monster, an enthralling tale of a northern denizen of the deep that bears comparison with any of the fabled accounts of Irish lough monsters. Sadly, like that of its Scottish cousin, it was a case of another one that got away.
Here is the story of one that didn’t get away.
On the morning of May 9th, 1862, two local anglers, Patrick Sheehy and John Naughton, went trolling for pike in the Killaloe area. Lough Derg had the reputation of harbouring monster pike and the anglers were prepared for this eventuality: their lure was a shoe lift, or shoe horn, hooks attached, and tied to stout line. They were to need it, as the enfolding account shows, recorded by John Sheehy (Patrick’s father) in the Limerick Chronicle of May 13th, 1862.
Patrick Sheehy was on the oars, with Naughton holding the rod. As they neared Derry Castle, some four miles up from Killaloe, the lure became entangled (as they thought) in a rock or some other obstruction. At the time, a stiff breeze was blowing and on letting the boat drift back, to clear their line, they were surprised by a strong pull, which nearly took the rod from Mr Naughton’s hand.
The reel now screamed as the 30 yards of line quickly ran out. They were left with no option but to pull the boat in the direction which the obvious monster of a fish took, which, fortunately was with the wind.
The epic battle had begun. It was to last two hours, with at times, the anglers pulling after the fish, sometimes coming to within a few feet of the monster. They eventually led the fish (which, like the anglers at this stage, must have been exhausted), into a shallow section of the lake, and jumping out, managed to pull it ashore.
When measured on the public weighing scales in Killaloe, the pike was recorded as being 5ft 8 inches long, more than the average male height of the time. It weighed. 90½lbs. Not alone was it a record for the lake, but Fred Buller in his book, Doomsday Book of Mammoth Pike, claims it is a world record as well that has stood to this day,
Buller, following his world-wide travels recording catches of monster pike, is convinced that the catch of the Lough Derg monster is authentic. “The measurements given are in accord with the measurements that one would expect to find of pike weighing 90½lbs. They impress the stamp of truth on a report about a fish caught in an age when nobody had a notion (even had they wanted to fabricate a story about a big pike) of how to relate a pike’s weight with its length,” he claims.