Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frank Cook's Big Fish, Caught Near Provincetown's Wood End, c.1910

The black-and-white photo of Frank Cook posing with his 270 pound halibut, c.1910,
was later turned into one of the most popular postcards of the next few decades, shown above.

Somewhere around the year 1910, Frank Cook was out one day in his little dory, fishing with a hand-held line, off the shoreline beyond Wood End. That's out beyond the spit of sand you'll find winding its way around the harbor if you walk out on the breakwater in the West End, toward Wood End Light. This spot got its name, by the way, because when the Pilgrims arrived here in 1620, that's where the woods ended. There were groves of trees and thickly forested areas found in spots all over the cape in those early days, and the forest in Provincetown came right down to the edge of the beach in that spot. 
So Frank was out in Cape Cod Bay, which lies beyond that bit of sand that runs between Wood End and Long Point. He was by himself, dangling a hand-held line from his dory and hoping for a fish to come along. Not all fishermen of the day sailed off with a crew on a large boat. There were many who fished from their own small dories and skiffs, seldom ranging far from the shoreline, since Provincetown is surrounded by deep waters. Good-sized fish were sometimes found quite near the beaches.
When he felt a tug on his line Frank began to pull it in, but he must have been startled as he realized what was on the other end of that line. It turns out a lumbering, 270 pound halibut had taken Frank's bait!
Alone in his boat, Frank somehow managed to land his catch, pulling a fish twice his size into his tiny craft. His dory must have been a "double-ender," having a pointed bow on either end, because hauling a fish that size over the side of a boat with a square stern would likely have swamped the boat. Once his catch was landed, Frank rowed more than five miles around Long Point and into the harbor, heading for a place equipped to handle such an enormous fish. When it had been unloaded and hoisted up to weigh it, Frank posed for this picture standing next to his halibut, holding the hand-line he had used to haul in the fish.
That black-and-white photo eventually evolved into a hand-colored post card that was very popular in PTown souvenir and gift shops for about 50 years, until the newfangled "chrome" style of glossy color photo cards began springing up in local shops in the 1960s. But these old-fashioned, hand-tinted photo post cards are still among those most prized by collectors today. And this is a fish folks still talk about.

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