Streamside Rebuke

Peter Mallett can be a feisty devil, which comes as no surprise to me after years of entertaining phone conversations.

Yes, affable Pete Mallet — president and founder of the Millers River Fishermen’s Association — is a man of principle, not a bit timid about voicing an opinion on important matters, particularly hunting and fishing, thus, sure, an occasional dust-up. But this man of fiery French-Canadian plasma means well. No question about it. Still, let’s just say he’s not always, uhm, diplomatic. Yeah, that’s it. Diplomatic. Not always so. Thus he’s made enemies here and there. No big deal.

It just so happens that he kicked that temper of his into gear last week on the shores of Orange’s Lake Mattawa, a popular spot for pond anglers and boaters alike, what some may call sedentary anglers … or worse. Well, count Mallet out when it comes to that kind of fishing. He calls himself a fish hunter — that is, one who straps on a pair of hip boats and follows a stream through tangled woods, fields and swamps, hunting trout. Which doesn’t mean he’s never fished Mattawa. Indeed he has, but long, long ago. In fact, he’d venture a guess it’s been 40-some years since he last wet a line there; just not his kinda spot. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from checking it out on a spring whim, which, it seems, unfolded last week, when it didn’t take long for old Pete to get a hair across his ass. Why? Well, it seems he objected to a fella’s catch-and-release routine and wasn’t the least bit hesitant to correct him with a sharp rebuke at the water’s edge.

What brought Mallett to the Mattawa scene was a state stocking truck departing the boat ramp. Figuring he’d check things out, sure enough, a truck-follower was having quite a day for himself, nailing one dazed, disoriented and hungry trout after another and releasing them back into the lake, which seemed perfectly OK until closer inspection. Problem was that the guy was using sharp, lethal, barbed treble hooks and creating a gory crimson mess.

“He was catching beautiful football rainbows, all of them a pound-and-a-half, unhooking them and throwing them back in bleeding like stuck pigs,” recalled Mallett. “After the third or fourth fish, I had had enough, couldn’t take a second more. I went right down to him and said, ‘Why are you throwing those fish back? They aren’t going to live bleeding like that.’

“He just looks at me and says he likes catching trout, not eating them. He’s a catch-and-release man. I told him catch-and-release men don’t use treble hooks unless they remove the barbs. It’s easy to do with needle-nosed pliers. Either that or you buy barbless hooks to re-rig lures with, because barbed treble hooks are killers.”

Yes sir, classic Mallett. When he has something to say, there’s no holding back; just the way it is, like it or not. Some do. Some don’t. But Mallett doesn’t worry.

Which brings us to three consecutive Saturday-morning kids’-stocking events on the Millers River that he wants to publicize. The first dump will occur a week from Saturday, on April 28, at Alan Rich Park in Athol at 11 a.m. The other two will tale place at the same time at different sites on consecutive Saturdays — May 4 at the Orange Wastewater Treatment Plant, and May 11 at the Birch Hill Dam parking lot in South Royalston. Mixed in with loads of mostly one-pound trout will be some $8-a-pound lunker rainbows weighing four pounds and better, all from the Brewster Hatchery in Plymouth, according to Mallett, the oldest trout hatchery in America.

“Yeah, we plan to put out a couple of the ‘big guys’ at all three of the kids’ stockings, just to raise their eyebrows,” laughed Mallett. “You know what they say: ‘Get a kid hooked young and they’ll fish forever.’ I believe in that. That’s why any kids interested in joining us are invited.”

Those big, 4-plus-pound trout will be part of a 200-pound allotment of lunkers the club plans to secretly stock at special Millers River sites this year. “If you want to know where we put them, then you gotta buy a $5 membership,” said Mallett, always the huckster. “People have been very generous. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to afford these trout.”

And, as old friend Freddie Bender used to say, “you betcha believe it” Mallett will have something to say if he catches any catch-and-release men hooking his big trout with barbed treble hooks and throwing them back to die slow, grueling deaths. He doesn’t put up with such inappropriate, unacceptable behavior. If you don’t believe it, ask the fella he confronted at Mattawa, the one who got a good taste of the Mallett ire.

Love it, or leave it, because Pete’s going nowhere.

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