Reader Column: Cephalopoda Tahoenian or ‘Tahoe Octopus’
It has been more than 40 years since I encountered the creature. It was one hot afternoon in late August in the mid 1960’s. Lake Tahoe was as calm as glass and the sun painted a beautiful masterpiece of the sky and the shoreline on the water.
I was just about as happy as a nine year old boy gets. My grandfather and I were spending the day on the lake fishing from his boat.
We had spent the morning fishing shallow water along the west shore with light tackle and worms. By lunch time we had two nice Rainbows and one German Brown that measured about 20 inches. “I caught the Brown.”
The morning excitement had left us both starving for food. Grandpa poured us both some still steaming coffee from his thermos bottle. It was sweet with plenty of real cream.
My Grandmother had packed our lunch boxes with ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches on rye along with some potato chips and chocolate covered doughnuts.
During our lunch break, Grandpa started talking about the big Mackinaw. At one point or another he suddenly interrupted himself and looked at me with one eyebrow raised, he said, “after lunch we’re bringing out the big rigs and we’re going down deep, really deep.”
It was no sooner than I had closed my lunch box when Grandpa started the motor and took off at full throttle. I almost flew out of the back of the boat. I watched as the view of the water changed from being able to see the bottom to light green, darker green to blue and then deep dark blue.
When the boat stopped, my grandfather took out two deep sea fishing poles that were equipped with steel line. He set them up with flashers and lures. He then set them into the holders on each side of the boat, we used both out riggers and down riggers. Within minutes we were off and running.
We started trolling about 1and#8260;2 of a mile out from Chambers landing and headed north towards Dollar Point. About the time we were lining up with Tahoe Pines, Grandpa’s pole bent over sharp.
I ran to the front of the boat and killed the motor as Grandpa grabbed his pole and began to reel in. “This is it Boy, here it is, this is really it, this is going to break the record, this one has got to be close to 80 pounds, maybe more.” He said.
He began to get more and more excited as the perilous battle got underway. “Ha, ha, ha, ha, wait till everyone sees this, this baby is big enough to feed our family, the neighbors across the dam, and all of the in-laws.” “Well, no, not the in-laws.”
After the first couple of hours, Grandpa’s childlike excitement and laughter did start to calm down a little. His mutterings were now more like, “I think, it, is, coming, in.”
A couple of more hours passed and it was more like, “Well, I guess if you catch a really big fish, it takes a while to reel it in, you %$#*+* you!.”
After a couple of more hours, the huge smile that was at first on my Grandfathers face had turned into what I could only describe as a maniacal grimace. His statements were now all filled with colorful metaphors.
About the time the sun was just beginning to disappear behind the mountains on the west shore something surfaced. I’m not sure who was more surprised, Grandpa or me. It was a good sized Mackinaw with a huge Octopus like creature clinging to it.
Grandpa handed me his fishing pole and said “Don’t let it go Boy, hold onto it.” He then grabbed his gaff pole and began to swing wildly trying to hook it. The two creatures together were so heavy that I had to lie down on the boat floor and put my feet against the side.
I was straining so hard trying to keep the twisted ball of fury surfaced that my arms felt like they were on fire. Every time I would manage to muscles the mass to the surface Grandpa would start swinging the gaff. Then my strength would fade a little and the entangled couple would dip beneath the surface again. Every time that would happen my grandfather would yell “Hey, what’s wrong with you, I thought we were trying to get this in the boat!” Or something to that effect.
After numerous attempts Grandpa finally hooked the fish and pulled the pair into the boat.
I threw the pole aside and quickly rolled towards the front of the boat. I then jumped to my feet and put the safety of the driver seat between the beast and myself. I used the seat the way rodeo clowns use barrels in a bull ring.
The creature dropped the fish, which had the appearance of being dead for quite some time. It then began to show its teeth and hiss at us like an angry cat.
My grandfather used the gaff like a lion tamer uses a chair to hold the creature at bay.
For a while it was sort of a stand off. He was checking us out, we were checking him out. The only sounds to be heard was the sound of water under the boat and the sound of the three of us breathing hard. Oh yes, I’m sure it had lungs. It must have gills too, but it had lungs.
It had eyes like an octopus, they were an eerie green with yellowish specs. It had teeth like a cat or a dog, all pointed. It’s skin was viscous and shinny with a translucent appearance.
It had a tongue like a human, which it kept sticking out at us. It had an evil grin on it’s face and his breath smelled strong of alcohol, whisky to be exact.
It had legs like an octopus except some of them were split and it used them like pinchers or a hand. Some of the legs were different diameters and lengths, it used some of it’s legs to walk on. There were shorter legs that stuck out the back like a tail fin.
When my grandfather would try to approach the beast it would go back to showing it’s teeth, hissing and sticking it’s tongue out. It would not back down off of the fish! After a fairly long encounter, (maybe 20 minutes} my grandpa cut the line coming out of the fishes mouth and backed away to the front of the boat with me.
Immediately the animal grabbed the fish with one of it’s pincer like tentacles and with the agility of a cat jumped onto the rail of the hull. It stuck it’s tongue out one more time, then it looked at us and laughed like a human. It’s laugh was loud and shrill. It just sat there on the rail of the boat laughing hysterically for maybe 30 seconds before jumping into the lake with the fish.
Grandfather and I watched intently as the animal slowly disappeared from view as it sank into the deep. Then, my Grandfather and I stared at each other with wide eyes. I screamed, “Grandpa, did you see that!” He said, “No, and neither did you.”
Additionally I recall that the animal’s body and legs or arms or whatever they are, could change colors independently of one another. The color patterns ranged from light cream colors to light browns, dark browns, black, pink, red, purple. Also, my Grandfather made a comment about the way the creature moved. He said, “I think he reminds me of Elvis.”
I tell this story trusting that young and old will enjoy my fond memory of the creature for many generations to come.
In said spirit I have carved a wooden likeness of the creature which will be displayed at the Tahoe Park Store.
I am also in the process of creating an illustrated book of the encounter so all can share the experience with ones close to heart.
I am anticipating the book to be completed by October 1, 2008.
Interested parties may inquire at Tahoe Park Store or e-mail email@example.com.
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