« PreviousContinue »
the best out to be in readiness against he baited his hook the next time;" but he has been observed, both by others and myself, to catch more fish than I or any other body that has ever gone a-fishing with him could do, and especially salmons; and I have been told lately by one of his most intimate and secret friends, that the box in which he put those worms was anointed with a drop, or two or three, of the oil of ivy-berries, made by expression or infusion; and told, that by the worms remaining in that box an hour, or a like time, they had incorporated a kind of smell that was irresistibly attractive, enough to force any fish within the smell of them to bite. This I heard not long since from a friend, but have not tried it; yet I grant it probable, and refer my reader to Sir Francis Bacon's Natural History, where he proves fishes may hear, and doubtless can more probably smell and I am certain Gesner says the otter can smell in the water, and I know not but that fish may do so too; 'tis left for a lover of angling, or any that desires to improve that art, to try this conclusion.
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 the polybody 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 bederæ grandissimæ inflicta sudant balsamum oleo gelato, albicantique persimile, odoris vero longe suavissimi." 'Tis supremely sweet to any fish, and yet asafoetida may do the like. But in these things I have no great faith, yet grant it probable, and have had from some chemical 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 on pike.
Observations of the Luce, or Pike; with Directions how to
Fish for him.
ISC. 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 fresh-water 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. Seagrave (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 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 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, 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 of fish) breeds but once in twelve months. And you are to note, that his time of breeding, or