Monksville’s a special place, you see some
cool shit out there if you know where to look.
The True Chronicles
How to Fish
We were on the boat cruisin’ around by The Sticks and we saw an osprey perched in a tree. We didn’t get too close, but we could see him and he could see us. So he jumps, takes off, and he was flyin’ around us in a big circle, and we watched him put his wings back – looked like a little jet fighter – and all of the sudden, BOOM! right down into the water he goes, talons first. You don’t realize how deep into the water they go, he was in the water, and he starts flappin’ his wings, catches air, flies up, and he’s got a two-pound walleye in his claws! So he flies out, comes right back around, and lands right in the same tree, not fifty yards from us. We sat there and watched him for an hour just eatin’ that walleye, and then he flew away with a full stomach. That was the day a bird taught me how to fish.
My wife Laurie and I were driving around in the boat near the back of the Res’, by Dino Island. She just looks up and says, “Hey, there’s an eagle’s nest,” and I’m like, “What? Oh, it’s an eagle’s nest. Oh, there’s two eagles sitting in it!” It’s funny, you can only see the nest when the leaves are off the trees, but if you pay attention, you’ll see the eagles flying in and out of the canopy year-round.”
An Upwards Nod
I was kayaking up by North Cove on a particularly hot summer afternoon. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, but the sun sure was shining. I was in the zone, you know, paddling along, becoming one with the water, and a sudden movement caught my eye. I looked back over my right shoulder and saw a pair of whitetail deer wading knee-deep in the water, cooling themselves off. One of them gave me an upwards nod and I returned the gesture – evidently, I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a hot day!
I was trollin’ in the dark for walleye, it was probably 9:30 at night. As I was passing by Dino Island, I saw something moving in the water and thought it was a muskrat. When I passed the thing it didn’t go down, which was strange because usually muskrats will go underwater if you get too close. A few minutes later I noticed it again and said, “I’m gonna see what the heck that is.”
So I turn the boat and putt-putt over but I still wasn’t sure what it was, so I grabbed one of my nets and scooped it out of the water. When I got the little bugger untangled; I was like, “Oh! That’s a flying squirrel!” A flying squirrel swimmin’ – not something you see every day.
Once I got him into the boat, I wrapped him in a towel and tucked him into my sweatshirt to dry him off and warm him up. Then I fished for another hour with my new buddy, but then he started to get a bit rambunctious, so I pulled up to the shoreline and tried getting him to climb up a tree, but he was having none of that. He was quite comfortable in his little cocoon. So I took him back to the boat, left him in my sweatshirt as I fished, and around one in the morning I got home. He spent the night in a cardboard box eating trail mix. The next morning we released him into the backyard. Haven’t seen him since.
Out of the Drink
I was fishing and I saw a squirrel swimming in the water in the back side of the Res’, by the eagle’s nest. He was actually swimming around in circles, getting ready to drown probably, so I netted him and brought him to shore. He was in pretty rough shape, he didn’t even run away, just kind of sat on the shore. I don’t really know if he survived to be honest, poor guy. Got him out of the drink, though.
Makes Me Wonder
This happened in the spot I found the swimming squirrel, actually; I was out fishing and I saw a big black thing swimmin’ around, and I was like, “What the fuck is that? Oh my god, it’s a black bear! It’s a swimming black bear!” I followed it for a bit and it climbed up on the shore and ran up the mountain. Seeing stuff like that really makes me wonder, where was he going? Where’d he come from?
We would go to Dino Island a lot when the kids were still kids, and if there’s one thing you need to know about Dino Island, it’s that it has monster-sized crayfish living under the rocks in the shallow water. We would park the boat and wade around in the shallows lifting up rocks, and usually the bigger the rock you lift, the bigger the crayfish hiding underneath it. We wouldn’t eat ‘em or anything, we’d just check ‘em out up close and put ‘em right back. So one day we were out there and I lift up this relatively small rock, and underneath it is a lobster-lookin’ thing as long as my foot. I tried to catch him but he was quick – wasn’t afraid to use his claws, either. Could’ve lobbed one of my toes off if he was hungry enough. We never saw him again, but I have a feeling he’s still out there, waiting. Preparing. Training for the day when those strange giant creatures come back to try to pull him from his lake again.
Springtime, nesting season. When the geese get too close to the swans’ nest, the swans go fuckin’ crazy, and they will kill the geese if they can get hold of ‘em, but the geese fly just a little bit faster than what the swans can keep up with. I watched a swan chase a goose for a few hundred yards once, it was up north past the bridge. The chase started at The Sticks and went all the way around The Basin, then the goose lost ‘em when it flew through the underpass.
A Lively One
I was fishing Monks’ one day, trollin’ the edge of the old stream channel. There’s this rocky point that sticks out, it’s deep though, like forty-five feet or so, and boom, he’s on. I get him to the boat, unhook him, measure him, I don’t remember how big he was but I remember that he was a lively one, so I released him and he swam right into the skeg of my motor and killed himself, right there. Just like that. Happened so fast I didn’t realize it until it was over. So I took him home and ate him, very bony – broke my heart that I had to kill that fish, and that’s the only muskie I’ve ever caught that I didn’t release, to no fault of my own.
It was the deepest dwelling muskie I ever caught in Monksville – most think muskies are shallow water fish, but in Monksville they like to lurk in the deeper water.
Twenty-Eight Pounds, Forty-Eight Inches
Everyone thinks a muskie is a shallow water fish, but in reality – especially in Monksville – the bigger muskies spend 90% of their time, if not 95% of their time, in the deepest water in the area where they’re livin’. Whether that’s twenty-eight feet or ninety feet, the fact is, that’s where they are, that’s why they’re so hard to catch, and that’s why you don’t catch ‘em castin’ a lot – they’re not up there in the shallows, they’re in the deep water. You catch ‘em in shallow water when they go up to feed, that’s the only time they leave the deeper parts of the lake. So every time I fish on Monksville, I always make sure I check the shallows because, quite simply, you don’t tell a fish where he should or shouldn’t be. If there is one golden rule to fishing, that right there is it.
So this particular day I caught one which I thought was a pretty big fish, twenty-eight pounds, a pretty good-sized muskie. I was checking my shallow spots up in the north end and I went to all the weedlines, all the spots that I thought there might be a fish out that particular day, and no fish. So as I was getting ready to head out to my deeper water spots, I said to myself, “Oh, you know what, let me just check the stream channel, that’s the deepest water in the area. Maybe there’ll be one in the channel.”So I changed the setting on my JB to get it down deeper and I went down, turned the boat around. The deepest section of the stream channel there is twenty-one feet and that’s the bottom of the channel. So I took my boat, I got my depth finder going, I went right over top of the stream channel, cut out into the middle, hit twenty-one feet, dropped the JB down, hit the bottom one time, POW! I thought I was hung. I was like, “Jesus, I’m hung? God!”
Turn the boat around, start jerkin’ on the line, the bottom starts fightin’ back. I’m like, “Oh boy, we got a big fish on.” I start fightin’ the fish and you know, felt like a pretty good fish, but didn’t feel like a giant, and I’m like, “A’ight, it’s a muskie, it’s a good muskie for sure.” Bringing it in, bringin’ it in, and all the sudden this thing pops up and I swear to god the first thought that goes through my head is State record. This thing is gigantic, and just as I think that, I look at the fish and look around and there is not a soul on the reservoir. So, I got him to the boat, landed him, trying to take a picture, can’t take a picture, freakin’ out because I wan’a get him back into the water because it’s summertime and I don’t wan’a kill him or her or whatever it was so, all right, that’s enough, put it back in the water, took a picture of it in the water, released it.
I was rattled. And then, uhhh… I started making my phone calls, then lo and behold it came up again. Drive the boat over to it, start revivin’ it, send it back down, and that was the last I saw of it. Twenty-eight pounds, forty-eight inches.
To revive, I held it by the tail and swished water in front of its face, like it was in a river, and it seems to me that doing so gives it more oxygen moving across its gills. It kinda peps them up when you do that, gives them more oxygen, makes it easy for them to get the oxygen. That’s why fish like moving water.
An Epic Battle
I was out ice fishing one evening and the snow was falling heavy. That was the one day I left my tip-ups out and went home to get something to eat instead of bringing the sled-shack, the one day, but when I got back I had two flags up. One was a dud, but the other was not. You can usually tell if it’s a muskie because the spool goes around really fast, and that spool was spinning; I wound up trying to get it landed for about an hour. A couple friends came out, you were there with your buddy, we had a whole crowd. After an epic battle the thing finally broke off, my blood was pumping so hard that I didn’t even need gloves. It was a big fish. I’ll never know how big, but it was a big fish.
A Beast of the Mountain
I was out ice fishing one afternoon, had some tip-ups out and a jiggin’ pole in my hand, really in the zone, and something had come down in the Muskie Cove and watched me without me knowing. The snow was pretty shallow and there was a whole set of footprints with a clear spot where it had sat down. I never even noticed, by the time I turned around the creature had come and gone.
Pretty cool that a beast of the mountain came and checked me out on the ice, though. I think it was a red fox.
Mink in the Morning
I was ice fishing the Muskie Cove in the morning, closer to dawn than to noon, and I randomly look up and there he is, a mink. He was cruising along the shoreline and before I could even get up to pursue, he disappeared into a burrow. That’s what they do, they have a den dug out somewhere in the shoreline, and they don’t need a very big hole to climb through. You won’t see them much during the day, they’re a rare find.
I was out fishing on Monks and I saw something pop up out of the water, and I was like, “What the fuck is that?” After a few seconds it went ba’loop and that’s how you know it’s an otter, they porpoise – at first only their head’s stickin’ out of the water, but then they dunk and their body and tail follow closely behind. I said to myself, “I bet he’s not having trouble catching fish today!”
My dad and I were out on the boat just past the north launch heading southwest down the Northern Leg. Dad had already started trolling a spoonplug and I was just kind of zoned out, staring at the sky, when I see a red-tailed hawk. Before I can even call it out to pops, the feathered fiend shrieks a war cry and dives towards the water. Hawks don’t do much fishing, which is why this is so crazy – there was a snake swimming on the surface and the hawk snatched it right out of the drink. We both watched it fly away with the snake squirming in its talons. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d call it unbelievable.
I Got a Muskie!
So we all know Monksville is legendary for big fish stories – big muskies, big walleye, big smallmouths. Me and Gary, an old friend of mine, were out fishing one day in the spring. We were castin’ for muskies, pretty big crank bait, a six-inch crank bait at least, and all of the sudden boom, my hook caught and I’m like, “Gar’, I got a muskie!” So I start fightin’ it, next thing I know this fish comes barreling out of the water right next to the boat. It porpoises out of the water, the lure flies out of its mouth and hits the side of the boat. Me and Gary turn and look at each other as the fish goes back into the water. Oh my god, that was a fuckin’ smallmouth. That thing was two feet long if it was an inch. That’s an eight-pound bass, the most gigantic smallmouth I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Swimmin’ in Monksville.
Stars in the Sky
I was fishing at night in June – I think it was June, maybe July, it could have been July – at about tenish o’clock at night. I came under the bridge into the Northern Leg from The Basin, and the whole shoreline past the north boat launch was lit up by lightning bugs. From the water up into the trees, all the way up into the trees, as high as you could see. There were millions of them, like stars in the sky they were, there must have been a mating ritual going on or something. I’ve never seen so many lightning bugs at once in my life.
Legend Has It
An owl story… I don’t think I have an owl story, but I used to find headless rabbits in the fields next to the old farm in Pennsylvania. Legend has it, those were owl kills. You don’t see ‘em around Monksville often, but you’ll hear ‘em screechin’ and hootin’ out there at night. If you’re ever out nightfishing you might spot one, if you’re lucky. But that’s just the question: do you feel lucky, punk? Well? Do ya?
Mink up the Hill
This one isn’t really Monksville, but I was sittin’ in a tree stand somewhere up in the general Weis Ecology Center area, I don’t remember how many years ago, and I didn’t have my video camera with me. So there’s a chipmunk running around down underneath my tree, and he jumps into a hole, and I look and here comes a mink up the hill. The mink comes up and he starts sniffin’ around, and the next thing you know, he dives into the hole and wiggles his way in and all I can see is his tail and his ass and his back legs and he’s munchin’ around in there for like three minutes, you hear chirpin’ and shrieking and the next thing you know, that mink pops out of the hole. He’s got the chipmunk clamped in his mouth. Turned around and walked right back down to the creek to eat it. That’s not something you see every day, I wish I had my video camera with me.
This technically isn’t a Monksville chronicle, but I was sitting on the brick porch in the backyard one autumn morning, drinking some tea and watching the woods. The temperature was up there and there was a lot of activity going on, lots of squirrels and chipmunks out and about, and there weren’t too many leaves left on the trees so everything was really visible. I go to drain my mug when I hear a kee-aww to my right – I look and see a red-tailed hawk, chipmunk clutched in its talons, flying in the little stretch of woods between my folks’ house and my neighbor’s house. A true bird of prey.
The King of Monksville
It was the day we released Buggaboo the flying squirrel into the backyard. I was sitting in the living room reading a book or something and my dad and brother had just gotten home from work. We were talking about Buggaboo and wondering what he was doing before my dad saved him, how he wound up in the lake. The train of thought I was riding was barreling towards the station marked I Guess We’ll Never Know, but my dad boarded a different train. He said to me, “Y’know, you should do a book about all the different animals that live around Monksville and give the flying squirrel an origin story.”
“Yeah?” I said, somewhat hesitant at first, as I had just finished drafting a novel of great length and I wasn’t quite ready to dive right in on a new project.
“Yeah!” he exclaimed, clearly excited about the idea. “I’ve been fishing Monksville since they flooded it in the eighties, I have a bunch of stories you could put in the book. Monksville’s a special place, you see some cool shit out there if you know where to look.”
Indeed you do, dad. Here’s to Mike Wallace, the king of Monksville Reservoir; thank you for your stories, thank you for sharing your lake with me, and thank you for the unforgettable memories.
Cast & Clavis
Anaxandridas and Leonidas:
Esox masquinongy, the muskellunge
Anguilla rostrata, the American eel
Barciro and The Wikler:
Homo aquabissisapiens, the deepwater human being
Carassius dolichodeirus, the dwarf plesiosaurus
Beuto, Jemcis, Mousetalon, and Scartail:
Buteo jamaicensis, the red-tailed hawk
Branda and Braten:
Branta canadensis, the Canada goose
Castor canadensis, the North American beaver
Glaucomys volans, the southern flying squirrel
Larus canus, the common gull
Deuxhonking Swans of Isla Meeney:
Cygnus buccinator, the trumpeter swan
Dopper and his Dozen Daring Divers:
Phalacrocorax auritus, the double-crested cormorant
Pandion haliaetus,the western osprey
Ardea herodias, the great blue heron
Buteo lineatus, the red-shouldered hawk
Lakewalker of Green Turtle Pond:
Chelydra serpentine, the common snapping turtle
Megascops asio, the eastern screech owl
Lysander and Lysandra:
Haliaeetus leucocephalus, the bald eagle
The Eternal Mink:
Neovison vison, the American mink
Ursus americanus, the American black bear
Nudderbudder and Bloodtooth Twitchtail:
Sciurus carolinensis, the eastern gray squirrel
Pecker and Woody:
Dryocopus pileatus, the pileated woodpecker
The Puma of the Yellow-Green Eyes:
Puma concolor couguar, the North American cougar
Rhyac and The Early Birds:
Anas platyrhynchos, the mallard
Sander vitreus, the walleye
Vorcolt of the Klaaw and his Bride:
Orconectes virilis, the eastern crayfish
The Vultress and her Vulture Flock:
Cathartes aura, the turkey buzzard
Yarnspinner, et al:
Homo sapiens, the human being
Beachway: A stretch of sandy beach juxtaposed between two pieces of dry land; specifically, the landing point on Dino Island
Brushdwellers: Mammals, such as raccoons, who are not rodents
Chitter: A squirrel noise
Churr: Another squirrel noise
Chwirk: A nonthreatening hawk noise
Cycle: A year
Denizen: An animal
Diurne: A denizen who wakes during the day
Fishcatching: The mythological art of casting a line with a lure on the end into water and bringing a lakebreather up through the surface; purely fictional
Frawnk: A great blue heron noise
Giant: A semi-hairless bipedal creature which bears a curious resemblance to a sasquatch
Giantic: Of the giants
Glaired: Fastened to a surface via glair, a glue-like substance produced by crayfish to secure their eggs to the tail of the female
The Great Shine: The sun
The Great Spirit: The main deity worshipped by the giants; essentially the spirit of mother nature
Hanger: An angry version of hunger
Kee: A less threatening version of a kee-aww
Kee-aww: A threatening hawk noise
Kinnikinnik: A blend of herbs used for smoking
Lakebreather: A fish
Lakewalker: Any landwalking denizen who also fancies the water, especially The Eternal Mink
Landwalker: A mammal or land-based reptile
Metalworking: The giantic art of taking raw ore and melding it into useful tools like lures and hands
Mesingwe: A deity of the forest and protector of wild game, especially deer
‘Munkie: A chipmunk
Nocturne: A denizen who wakes during the night
Patagium: The thin flaps of skin which allow a flying squirrel to glide
Powwow: A giantic celebration in which the whole tribe gathers around a bonfire to smoke herbs and dance
Sandbaking: The giantic art of turning sand into glass
Sasquatch: You know exactly what this is
Schluup: The sound of a lakebreather swallowing its prey whole
Shinecycle: A day
Shinerays: Beams of sunlight
Small Giants: Giantic children
Smallbirds: Any wingflapper who doesn’t fit into the category of Bird of Lake nor Bird of Prey; cardinals, blue jays, robins and the like
Soulbride: The female of a soulpair
Soulgroom: The male of a soulpair
Soulpair: A pair of denizens, usually wingflappers, who mate for life
Squark: A gull noise
The Starpool: Outer space, seen as the night sky
Surfaceswimmer: Any lakebreather to swim near the surface where it may easily be caught, whether by wingflappers, landwalkers, or other lakebreathers
Wingflapper: A bird
Wingwalker: Any landwalking denizen who fancies the air, specifically Buggaboo the flying squirrel
Wrangler: Teacher of the small giants