No one seems to know how it got there.
But area fishermen have tried everything to hook it: worms, corn, artificial lures.
Neighborhood kids recently have taken to wading into the pond with nets.
The big guy meanders away from them all -- more interested, it seems, in sucking up algae.
The fishermen insist they don't want to eat the fish. Koi, after all, are ornamental carp. They just want to weigh it or take its picture. Others simply gaze at the koi (pronounced "coy").
"I saw it from my window once," says Denise Breneman, whose house is more than 50 feet from the pond's banks in Columbia's Long Reach village.
Sue Parker, who works for the Long Reach Community Association, has walked around the pond for 24 years.
She first spotted the fish 20 years ago.
"It's king of the water," says Cameron Routhier, 4, sitting in a tiny lawn chair at the pond, rod in hand.
A photographer and a reporter who visited the pond five times recently were able to spy the koi only once.
A measuring technique using a telephoto lens led to an estimate of its length at 2 feet, 10 inches.
"That's a big one," says Joe Zuritsky, one of the founders of the Mid-Atlantic Koi Club. "That's one of the biggest koi in the country."
Just ask 11-year-old Devrin Fleming, who claims that three weeks ago he hooked the Jackson Pond monster with a bacon-baited hook.
"I had it halfway out of the water," recalls Devrin. But the fish thrashed and broke free. Devrin says he'll keep trying.
A friend once claimed to be the grandson of the man who originally released the koi, but Devrin says that's just a fish story.
Even without the koi, Jackson Pond would lure fishermen of all ages. It's teeming with small catfish, sunfish, bluegill, crappie and an occasional bass.
Children sometimes hook fish on their first casts -- or drops, as is the case when they fish from its small footbridge or dock.
The pond, several acres in size, is owned by the Columbia Association homeowners group. The CA stocks its lakes and ponds, but staff ecologist Chick Rhodehamel said it didn't put the koi in Jackson Pond.
Ken Walker, a 28-year-old high school teacher who often unwinds with a few casts after work, keeps a camera in his car should he land the koi. On a recent afternoon, he lobbed a variety of plastic lures toward the big fish. Some nearly hit it on the head. The koi barely moved.
Another fisherman, who identified himself only as a federal worker named Jack, says he wants to mail his salmon-fishing brother in Buffalo, N.Y., evidence of a koi landing. "It's bragging rights," Jack said. "It's a photograph."
L The Jackson Pond fishermen have their work cut out for them.
Originally bred in Japan for aquariums and ornamental ponds, koi released in the wild often revert to their roots, which they share with the common carp.
And carp are no easy catch.
In Europe, they're considered esteemed game fish. Hook a carp, they say, and you've got a fight on your hands.
"It's not like you can throw out a worm under a bobber," says Andy Martin, assistant director of the American Sportfishing Association. "It's trickier than that."
As for koi, says Ron Goforth, U.S. director of the Japan-based Zen Nippon Airinkai, an international koi association: "They aren't particularly interested in striking at lures.
"If they're well nourished -- like this fish obviously is -- they [couldn't] give a damn."
Koi have brains the size of marbles. They have only one daily task: finding food.
In the wild, they munch on algae, mosquito eggs, other fishes' eggs, their own eggs and water nymphs.
So, experienced carp anglers will spend weeks chumming a fishing spot with corn. Then they cast a small, corn-baited hook ++ into the chummed area.
Jackson Pond's best-known resident is definitely a koi, experts say, based on a photo showing its size, color and Fu Manchu facial features.
The experts aren't surprised that it may be more than 20 years old. Koi can survive in only 4 feet of water beneath any ice that forms during Maryland's relatively mild winters.
"You can expect that koi to live for 40 to 50 years," says Joel Burkard, owner of Pan Intercorp of Bothell, Wash., one of the nation's largest importers and wholesalers of koi.
Koi, as it turns out, can mean big bucks. There are koi web sites, koi magazines, koi competitions and koi auctions.
A single koi went for a quarter-million dollars in Japan recently.
"A very nice fish," Burkard explains. This invites the question: How much for the king of Jackson Pond?
Probably not much at all.
Prize koi have crisp and contrasting colors, uniform patterns and appealing "body conformations."
Burkard explains: It's "the difference between Heather Locklear and Phyllis Diller."
"It's not how big it is," he says. "It's how good it is. That fish has
nothing going for it."
Adds Zuritsky: "It's junk."
That's good news for the master of Jackson Pond. Even those who have been trying to catch the giant say they will throw it back.
"It's like a souvenir for the lake," says 11-year-old Jarod Ingram, net in hand.
"If I take it out, people are going to quit talking about it."
Pub Date: 5/28/97