Massachusetts Wildlife magazine is a quarterly publication packed with award-winning articles and photos on the environment, conservation, fishing, hunting, natural history and just about everything relating to the outdoors in Massachusetts. In 2016, the magazine turns 60! In commemoration of the 60th anniversary, a variety of historical articles will be published in the next three issues highlighting our collective conservation history.
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A Note from Troy Gipps, Editor, Massachusetts Wildlife
My journey to this position began in the summer of 1978, when I was a boy. I stood on the shore of what was then, and is now, known as the “Second Pond;” one of three at the Marlborough Fish & Game club. My younger brother Steve stood beside me in the tall grass. It was a hot, sticky summer day and we had come to the water’s edge to test our fishing prowess. With the snap of my wrist, I sent a weedless frog flying through the air toward a lily pad-covered cove we thought might hold a largemouth bass equal in size to the fishing stories we had overhead at the clubhouse. My cast was on target and the rubber frog hit its mark, splashing down in a small opening amidst a thick carpet of pads. Taking our father’s advice, I let the lure settle on the surface until all movement had subsided. I leaned in, gripping the pole with nervous anticipation, and twitched my rod tip. The frog lurched forward, tossing water droplets onto nearby pads, and the surface exploded. The frog vanished from sight and the largemouth met my hook set with conviction. The battle was on! With my rod tip held high and my feet braced against a grass hummock, I challenged the bass with all the strength and skill I could muster, as I slowly began to sink into the muck. This was the big one! My drag squealed as I played the powerful fish; it twisted, turned and rolled. I fully expecting my line to break, but, miraculously, it held, and with each turn of the reel handle, the great bass drew closer. It rose to the surface and the water boiled. Then it dove, nearly pulling the rod from my hands, before rocketing back for an epic jump. Wide-eyed we watched, as the bass thrashed its head from side-to-side trying to throw the frog from its mouth. All that stood between us and our fishing dreams was a thin strand of fishing line, glistening in the summer sun. The bass fell; plunging beneath the pond’s dark surface. I cranked the handle of my spinning reel, over and over, gaining ground, and then losing, and then gaining ground again. Eventually, I pulled the bass within reach. I knelt down and lipped the largemouth as our father had taught us, and pulled him up from a tangle of lily stems. The excitement we felt at that moment, standing at the water's edge, remains, to this day, unmatched. The 21-inch bass tipped the scale at a respectable four-and-half pounds; a giant fish in boyhood terms. We walked up to the clubhouse that afternoon with our trophy in hand and a sense of accomplishment in our hearts. That night, the hefty bass fillets met a thick coating of batter. Oil crackled and popped in the frying pan and the smell of success filled our kitchen. We all gathered at the table and enjoyed a well-deserved meal.
Time spent in that boyhood wilderness has led to my life as a hunter and fisherman, outdoor writer and nature photographer, wilderness canoeist, land trust volunteer, and father of two boys -- whom I have taken to the shore of a similar Massachusetts pond with fishing poles in hand. And now, as I begin my editorship of this fine publication, which has entertained and educated its readers for over 60 years, I am both mindful of the tireless efforts of those who came before me and hopeful that through these pages, we can all gain a greater appreciation of the natural world and be moved to preserve, protect and properly steward the environment upon which we all depend for our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.