The Domesday Book of Mammoth Pike

Published: 1979
Author: Fred Buller
Reviewed by: Peter McCue

Has any fish in our history been subject to more exaggeration of its size and lurid tales of rapacious appetite than the Pike? I doubt it! If the past story tellers of our Pike folklore are to be believed, then you would indeed be remiss in your duties, to allow your young son or daughter to go swimming without the aid of one of those shotgun cartridge sticks divers use to keep hungry sharks at bay. Of course, the little Yorkshire terrier that was your constant companion has long been snatched from its walkies along the shore and dragged to its watery doom leaving you with nothing but a few diminishing ripples, but it is your own fault you were warned! Mind, having said that can you blame our erstwhile fantasists, Esox Lucius is a fierce looking b****r isn’t it.

The Domesday Book of Mammoth PikeFortunately for us Fred Buller has a more rational outlook. Fred’s tome is a quest to investigate and catalogue those giant Pike of times past and times more recent. However, if you are looking for a book of dry facts and figures then you will be sadly disappointed, because though this great book has them, it is far from dry. If you had caught a Pike in excess of 35lb then Fred wanted to know everything about it, stories, newspaper coverage, letters, documents, anything at all that would help him to an opinion on its capture or validity. If any of his investigations throw up doubts hell tell you, then give a reasoned explanation why.

All the legendary monsters of running and stillwater are here going back over 200 years and he may well surprise you, with some of his conclusions on the Pike you might feel are more outlandish than others. As usual though, Fred Buller offers persuasive reasoning to backup his viewpoint. Whilst I would love to tell you more about the fascinating Pike stories like the Kenmure, Dowdeswell and Endrick fish, not forgetting of course the Irish world record Pike of 90 lbs plus ! I daren’t for fear of spoiling some exciting reading. Buller does not confine himself solely to British leviathans either, massive European specimens have their place in the book.

There is a wealth of black and white photographs going back into the depths of Pike angling history that are fascinating. Enormous fish are held aloft by hook, crook, rope or heavy sticks pushed through the gills along with preserved heads and skulls. One of my favourite photos is the one of Alfred Jardine surrounded by cases of huge Pike, the fact that you learn Jardine could be economical with the truth and not to pleasant with his fellow sportsmen adds to the interest. Mr Jardine had suddenly become more than a two-dimensional figure.

Why are there no 60-70lb beasts about nowadays you ask. Well Fred can give you a very plausible reason that has a definite ring of truth about it, mores the pity! Certainly, if you have any interest at all in this ferocious predator, you cannot fail to be enthralled by the contents of this book. Fred Buller took on a massive undertaking with this project, the collating of the references and the detective work required must have been daunting, thankfully he succeeded. The downside is that I don’t think there are a lot of copies readily available. I also suspect you might need to dig a little deeper into the pocket than normal to get a copy. Don’t give up though, keep searching and enquire at libraries, its well worth the effort One word of warning, do not be tempted to go straight to the eye popping big mamas first, or you risk viewing the 35’s as ordinary bet you do though I did!!

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