“My First Quabbin Fish”

Written by: Jack Gotta

One early morning in May my father, cousin, and my eleven year old self headed out for a fishing trip to the Quabbin Reservoir. Quabbin is a very unique place, in the 1940’s an entire county was flooded to supply Boston with clean water. What was left behind is one of these most beautiful fisheries in the world, no civilization in sight, just green mountains sandwiched between the blues of the sky and water.

The Quabbin Reservoir from one of my 2018 trips

The Quabbin Reservoir is home to state record trout and is known for its pivotal position in rejuvenating the American bald eagle population. Seeing these majestic birds of prey, the staple of americana, soar above your head is the epitome of freedom. They especially grabbed the attention of my late great uncle, Uncle Moose. Moose was the textbook definition of an outdoorsman, doing everything from commercial tuna fishing to hunting rabbit, but his favorite place to be was right there at Quabbin with those eagles. On this particular day in May the presence of the eagles were prominent. You could make out the white of their heads perched in the evergreens like a singular ornament on a christmas tree.

An American Bald Eagle photographed over the Quabbin Reservoir (Yankee Magazine)

As we neared lunch, still fishless, our luck changed. One of the rods off the back of the boat bent down and we had a fish on! My father handed me the rod and was coaching me through what to do. He was saying; “Ok Jack, you’re going to reel the fish in, pull it past me next to the boat, I’m going to drop the net  into the water, and then you just let the fish drift right back not the net.” It seemed fool proof. Twenty feet off the back of the boat we see the fish break the surface of the water, my cousin and dad come to the conclusion that it’s a rainbow trout. My first Quabbin fish was now fifteen feet away. Ten feet and I’m thinking of how I’m going to hold it for a picture. It’s five feet away and all of a sudden a shadow screams in from the right, there is a splash in the water and my rod bends straight up. That shadow belonged to the eagle that was once perched high up in the trees. But the fish was still hooked. So here I am, eleven years old, fighting a bald eagle at the end of my line. After a valiant fight of a few long seconds, the eagle won and took my fish back to his perch. Dumbfounded at what we all had just witnessed I picked up the phone and immediately called Uncle Moose, frantically trying to explain to him what just happened. After all he was the one who taught my father, who then taught me how to fish. Although we left that day without catching a fish we all knew that what we all experienced together out there on the water was a shared memory that will never be forgotten.