Photo: The Clay Pit Pond Largemouth Bass.
On Sunday morning, May 22, Belmont High sophomore Brian Alper caught himself a damn good lookin’ largemouth bass coming in at an impressive eight-plus pounds.
But it was where Alper reel in his catch that is just as jaw-dropping. No, he wasn’t on some crystal clear Berkshire County lake or in the wilds of Maine. Brian caught his bass in Clay Pit Pond.
CLAY PIT POND!
Yes, the man-made body of water – created in the late 1920s when the Wellington Brook was redirected into a pit where the New England Brick Company excavated clay for bricks – is unlikely to be on anyone’s list of fishin’ holes to find bass or much less anything living. For four decades, the land next to the pond was the town’s dump until the town opened the incinerator site near the Lexington town line in 1959.
In 1995, Belmont’s Conservation Commission asked the state to test the fish in Clay Pit Pond. Results showed unacceptably high levels of chlordane, a pesticide is associated with a variety of cancers. After the results were made public, the Massachusetts Public Health Department issued a public warning that is found on signs on the bank of the pond: “Do not eat fish caught in this pond. They may be poisoned with chemicals.”
For most residents, the creature most likely seen swimming in Clay Pit Pond is a rat or Blinky, the three-eyed orange fish found in the lake outside the nuclear power plant in “The Simpsons.”
But for Brian – who has been fishing Clay Pit for the past two years – and other hearty locals, the allure of casting a lure into a body of water outweighs most of the concerns they may face. And if Boston Harbor and the Charles River can be reclaimed to be “swimmable” after centuries of pollution, whose to say Belmont’s own “Pond” will one day … ummm, no.
As for the bass – he was not named by Brian – he will continue to swim (it’s likely he has spent the past decade in the pond) contently in his watery home for now.
“Of course, it got thrown back. No one should EVER eat fish out of there,” said Brian’s father, David, the long-time chair of the town’s Board of Health.