The Legend of Old Snaggletooth

   08.21.15

The Legend of Old Snaggletooth

It happened on Deer Lake, in Polk County, Wisconsin, while fishing with my good friend and bona fide muskie hound, Spence Petros of Chicago. Somehow the moon and the stars were properly aligned, and we were into muskies, big time. Schools of fish, in fact.

In less than two days we caught seven “legals,” including two muskies over 20 pounds. But the highlight of the trip was the 15-pounder Petros caught that we later dubbed “Snaggletooth.”

The fish had a deformed canine fang that jutted far out from the side of its jaw, giving the fish a constant, mean-looking sneer even with its mouth closed. Spence brought the fish close, and collared it properly with one hand behind its head, thumb under one gill plate, fingers under the opposite gill plate. He lifted it aboard, held it vertically high, while I made some fast photos of the prize. Mid-way through the picture taking the fish flipped strongly, Spence lost his grip on the slimy head, and it slipped straight down through his wet hand.

That’s when the snaggletooth caught one of his fingers and ripped across it like a piscatorial razor blade.

Petros blood went everywhere. But in true muskie-man fashion, he simply unhooked the fish, tossed it back overboard, washed slime from his hands, and went back to casting.

He dabbed a towel around his hand periodically, but soon it was saturated with blood, as well as the boat deck. He put pressure on the finger, while fishing, of course. But still the wound wouldn’t stop bleeding.

Finally, Petros blood began gumming up his reel gears, so he capitulated to my suggestion that we run in and find an emergency room.

Twenty minutes later we were in a rural Wisconsin doctor’s office and the physician began treating Spence. As he worked on the finger the physician asked what happened.

Petros described the events, and the man became noticeably distraught, then downright demonic. He was probing the open wound like Jack the Ripper, with as much beside manner as Dr. Kevorkian.

“You’re out there fishing for those damn muskies on Deer Lake!!” roared the frenzied physician with crazed, spinning eyes. “I live on Deer Lake!! Used to be the best bass lake in all of Wisconsin, ’til those toothy, ravenous muskies were stocked in it.

They ate all my bass–just because muskie men like you want them put in my lake!!”

I watched the stitching procedure until the doctor became psychotic, and the stitching needle moved so erratically around the open, muskie-inflicted wound, that my stomach turned upside down and I had to walk out.

Spence soon did, too, his eyes glazed and with a finger stitch job that looked like something on an old, battle-scarred horsehide baseball used on an inner-city sand lot.

“Hurts a little,” he said through clinched teeth as we went back to Deer Lake. “But not enough to keep me off the lake.”

We caught three more “legals” before sundown.

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