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I shall also impart two other experiments, but not tried by myself, which I will deliver in the same words that they were given me by an excellent angler and a very friend, in writing: he told me the latter was too good to be told, but in a learned language, lest it should be made common.
• Take the stinking oil drawn out of polypody of the oak by a retort, mixed with turpentine and hive-honey, and anoint your bait therewith, and it will doubtless draw the fish to it.' The other is this : “Vulnera hederae grandissimae inficta sudant balsamum oleo gelato, albicantique persimile, odoris verò longè suavissimi. • 'Tis supremely sweet to any fish, and yet assa foetida may do the like.'
But in these I have no great faith; yet grant it probable ; and have had from some chymical men, namely, from Sir George Hastings and others, an affirmation of them to be very advantageous. But no more of these ; especially not in this place.
I might here, before I take my leave of the Salmon, tell you, that there is more than one sort of them, as namely, a Tecon, and another called in some places a Samlet, or by some a Skegger ; but these, and others which I forbear to name, may be fish of another kind, and differ as we know a Herring and a Pilchard do, which, I think, are as different as the rivers in which they breed, and must, by me, be left to the disquisitions of men of more leisure, and of greater abilities than I profess myself to have.
And lastly, I am to borrow so much of your promised patience, as to tell you, that the trout, or Salmon, being in season, have, at their first taking out of the water, which continues during life, their bodies adorned, the one with such red spots, and the other with such black or blackish spots, as give them such an addition of natural beauty as, I think, was never given to any woman by the artificial paint or patches in which they so much pride themselves in this age. And so I shall leave them both; and proceed to some observations of the Pike.
Observations of the Luce or Pike, with Directions how to
fish for him
Piscator. The mighty Luce or Pike is taken to be the tyrant, as the Salmon is the king, of the fresh waters. 'Tis not to be doubted, but that they are bred, some by generation, and some not; as namely, of a weed called pickerel-weed, unless learned Gesner be much mistaken, for he says, this weed and other glutinous matter, with the help of the sun's heat, in some particular months, and some ponds, apted for it by nature, do become Pikes. But, doubtless, divers Pikes are bred after this manner, or are brought into some ponds some such other ways as is past man's finding out, of which we have daily testimonies.
Sir Francis Bacon, in his History of Life and Death, observes the Pike to be the longest lived of any
freshwater fish; and yet he computes it to be not usually above forty years; and others think it to be not above ten years : and yet Gesner mentions a Pike taken in Swedeland, in the year 1449, with a ring about his neck, declaring he was put into that pond by Frederick the Second, more than two hundred years before he was last taken, as by the inscription in that ring, being Greek, was interpreted by the then Bishop of Worms. But of this no more; but that it is observed, that the old or very great Pikes have in them more of state than goodness; the smaller or middle-sized Pikes being, by the most and choicest palates observed to be the best meat : and, contrary, the Eel is observed to be the better for age and bigness.
All Pikes that live long prove chargeable to their keepers, because their life is maintained by the death of so many other fish, even those of their own kind; which has made him by some writers to be called the Tyrant of the Rivers, or the Fresh-water Wolf, by reason of his bold, greedy, devouring disposition; which is so keen, as Gesner relates, A man going to a pond, where it seems a Pike had devoured all the fish, to water his mule, had a Pike bit his mule by the lips; to which the Pike hung so fast, that the mule drew him out of the water; and by that accident, the owner of the mule angled out the Pike. And the same Gesner observes, that a maid in Poland had a Pike bit her by the foot, as she was washing clothes in a pond. And I have heard the like of a woman in Killingworth pond, not far from Coventry. But I have been assured by my friend Mr. Segrave, of whom I spake to you formerly, that keeps tame Otters, that he hath known a Pike, in extreme hunger, fight with one of his Otters for a Carp that the Otter had caught, and was then bringing out of the water. I have told you who relate these things; and tell you they are persons of credit ; and shall conclude this observation, by telling you, what a wise man has observed, “It is a hard thing to persuade the belly, because it has no ears.'
But if these relations be disbelieved, it is too evident to be doubted, that a Pike will devour a fish of his own kind 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 immediately 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 appear 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 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
• 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, to 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: as 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 a 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 that she is casting her spawn, but touches her not.
I might say more of this, but it might be thought curiosity or worse, and shall therefore forbear it; and take 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 swoln cheeks and staring eyes, did stretch out his legs and embrace 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 forbear, and assured them he was certain that Pikes were often so served.'
I told this, which is to be read in the sixth chapter of the book of Dubravius, unto a friend, who replied, It