When people go fishing, they expect to catch at least something - maybe a Crappie or Bass. They don’t expect to go out and find a skull or a literal bomb on the end of their line. Fishers recall the most unexpected catch they had while out in the water. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
“Flew It Like A Kite”
“When I was a kid, my old man and I caught an otter while seining. Seining is basically like taking a volleyball net, flipping it upside down, and walking through the water with one guy on each end. Then you drag it up onshore. The otter was a juvenile and our two dogs were swimming around playing with this thing. It would float in the water until one of the dogs got too close, then he would dive under and swim away. He’d pop up right behind the dog and make a loud chuffing sound. The dogs would go crazy. They played like this for about 15 minutes while we dragged the seine.
One of the dogs ended up chasing him into the seine and we dragged it up onshore. The otter was not amused. This thing went ballistic thrashing and biting. My dad held the dogs and told me to let it out. I was scared to death. I flipped the net open and the thing took a run at me. I fell trying to get away from it and it beelined for the water. No harm done.
When I got older, the old man got a boat we could take offshore. We were trolling when a flock of Gannets came through and started diving on our baits. They do this periodically and there’s not a lot you can do. They never got hooked until one time.
Gannets are giant seabirds. They can have a five to six feet wingspan and are scary up close. He hooked himself in the wing somehow and set the hook trying to fly away. I grabbed the rod and flew this bird like a kite. He’d try to fly and pinwheel into the ocean. I dragged him as fast as I could so we wouldn’t drown him or hurt him any worse than he already was. I got him up next to the boat and the old man tossed a towel on him and wrapped him up.
We covered his head and everything but the hooked wing so he couldn’t bite us. I held the bird while the old man dehooked him. The wing was fine, not broken, but just had a little hole in it from the hook. The old man got on the far side of the boat and told me to let it go. This bird was huge. My game plan was to toss it away from me over the water and hold on to the towel. I executed my plan and this giant bird wheeled around and bit my outstretched hand. My dad was rolling around because he was laughing so hard.”
“I was fishing at a city park for bass, and I felt something weird on the line (often a fish moving in a direction you don’t expect) so I set the hook and it was fish on. I fought that fish and it felt like it kept thrashing its head and diving for the bottom. I was ready for a big fish but when I pulled it out of the water it was a lovingly, worn strap-on adult toy with the straps intact.
A friend of mine was fishing a lake for bass that often had migrants fishing and drinking around there as well. He thought he had snagged a log one day and was pulling it in to get his lure back. It wasn’t a log, it was the body of a dead migrant and his jig was hooked into the flesh of his stomach where it had ripped a hole.”
“When I was a weedy little kid I went on a chartered sea-fishing trip in Wales. There were a dozen or so people on the trip, and the guy running things was kind of a wanker. Yelled a lot, wasn’t very patient.
I had already gotten some tackle caught in someone else’s line, and he came over to me when I was struggling with my fishing rod. He rolled his eyes, took it off me, and set about getting me ‘out from under a rock.’
He then reeled in a 12-pound pollock that was half my size. The rest of the boat fixed their rods and came over. They told me they call those ‘Grunters’ and that you rarely ever see one.”
The Legend Of Mikeydoes
“I had been sitting at the bar for a short time before I noticed something strange on the wall not too far away. I thought I may be I was seeing things until the bartender, a lovely woman named Doris, came over and smirked at me.
‘You’re wonderin’ about the bra,’ she said.
‘Yeah, so it is a bra?’ I asked.
‘Sure is,’ she answered and looked at the slightly worn garment which had been mounted on a wooden plaque, not unlike a taxidermied animal. ‘And an unusual one at that. Made of some sort of scaly fabric,’ she said.
‘Why is it on the wall?’ I asked
‘You’re not from around here, are ya son?’ she asked as she planted an elbow on the bar and leaned toward me.
I shook my head, so she continued. ‘Years ago, when a terrible hurricane came through, a man and local legend named Mikeydoes stood on the shore out there and fished. Everyone thought he was crazy, even before he braved the weather. He’d come around claimin’ that the women of the sea always come to the beach during a hurricane. He was so bent on catchin’ one. That’s all he talked about near the end.’
I smiled at Doris and expected her to begin laughing. She, too, was smiling, but not because she was joking. I suspect it was because she knew just how crazy the tale sounded.
‘He was trying to catch a mermaid?’ I asked.
‘That’s right. And he nearly did, right out there,’ she said and pointed out a nearby window.
As we looked out at the beach she continued. ‘Some of us were determined not to leave for the storm, so we stood inside with all but that one window boarded. We watched him casting over and over, somehow managing to fight through the wind and rain. Suddenly his fishing pole curved and he went to battle with something big and strong. It seemed as if hours had passed while we watched. He’d reel it in, then it would swim back out. Over and over. Finally, when we were desperately trying to get him to come inside, the thing he’d hooked got away, the fishing pole suddenly went straight, and his lure flew back at him. Attached to it was that bra. The bra of a mermaid.’
‘What happened after that?’ I asked.
‘He picked up the bra and ran over here. We expected him to come inside so we could finish securing the place. But no,’ she said while shaking her head. Her demeanor suddenly changed from a sort of glowing happiness to obvious sadness. ‘He gave us the bra, stripped down so he was clothesless, and then sprinted into the sea while yelling, ‘She’s waiting for me!”
All we saw was his pale white backside go diving into the surf and then he was gone. No one has seen him since.”
John Sevier Steam Plant
“Years ago, I was using a Cicada Reef-runner lure and fishing for bass below the John Sevier Steam Plant. It’s a blade bait type lure and goes deep if retrieved at slower speeds. I felt it snag and resist, I thought I had a sunken tree limb but it turned out to be a moss-covered dog’s skull.
I don’t know why, but the longer I looked at it, the sadder I felt. I brought it home and buried it next to where I had buried one of our dogs after it had died. For some reason, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me and it just seemed like I had done something I was supposed to do.”
“Last summer, I was fishing with my son and a friend for breaking Striped Bass on the Chesapeake Bay near Poplar Island. It’s a fun way to fish. Basically, you cruise around, look for birds feeding at the surface, race over to the spot, and throw spoons into the baitfish which are being eaten by the Striped Bass (we call them rockfish). The fish you catch isn’t big, but it’s not unusual for us to catch and release 60 fishes in a couple of hours around dusk.
On this particular trip, we arrived at a hotspot and my friend went to throw in his line. As his cast arced toward the water, a seagull tried to grab it out of the air but missed and ended up getting the line wrapped around his neck instead. The lure then fell to the water and immediately got a strike. So now we had a line about 15 yards out with a fish on the end and a seagull being strangled in the line.
The bird’s attempts to fly upward and out of the tangle, the fish’s attempts to pull away from the boat to free himself from the hook, and my buddy reeling them both in caused a lot of pressure on the line and around the bird’s neck. We considered cutting the line but that might not have been a good outcome for the bird as the line, lure, and the fish may have stayed attached to its neck and doomed them both.
It took about two minutes to get the bird and the fish on the boat, and another few seconds to gather in the bird so we can get the line off its neck and set it free. It flew away and seemed fine, we did not see any damage to its neck from the line. The fish was also released.”
“I caught a Water Moccasin out of a pond as a young boy. It had wrapped itself around a limb in the water, but I had thought my line was just stuck so I pulled for all I was worth. When it finally loosened, it shot out of the waters like it was on springs, right at my face. I pulled my pole back frantically but the line and snake wrapped loops around my head. One prong of the hook embedded in my ear while less than an inch away the other prong was embedded in the snake’s mouth. It was hissing angrily and writhing about my head.
Luckily my dad was with me and he used a knife to decapitate the snake and pulled the hook from my ear.”
Atlantic City, New Jersey
“About three years ago, I and my dad were trolling for tuna about 30 miles off of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and was having no luck. When you troll, you run the boat and let the lines run out to a reasonable distance and then just drive around, slowly. There are patterns you can do and different methods but I won’t bore you with the details. Anyway, we weren’t catching anything until one of the reels went off, screaming as it would if a big fish took it.
My dad grabbed the tuna belt and started fighting this fish and let me tell you it was tough, probably a half-hour-long fight. Then finally my dad got it to the surface and I went to gaff it, expecting it to be a tuna, wahoo, or Mahi, and I kid you not, it was three blankets tied together. They were just so waterlogged, it was so hard to pull them up. My dad actually spent over a half-hour fighting three wet blankets.
We still laugh about it to this day and whenever anything bites my dad will yell ‘Blanket on!’.”
“When I was about 15, I was fishing with my dad off the coast of Mallorca in Spain. It was really warm out and we weren’t catching anything much, so we got some snorkels and went for a swim around to see if we could see anything interesting. It was only about 20 feet deep.
Around these cave-like rocks, I spotted what looked like a dead body. I started trying to dive down, but I’m not a super strong swimmer so when I would get to about 10 feet away from it I would have to come back up for air.
Eventually, my dad got to it. The whole time, I was diving, watching, diving, watching, and thinking, ‘Oh no.’ He was wriggling a rock trying to free it. Eventually, it started to float towards the surface and my dad followed.
Right in front of my face, a half-melted, slimy, life-size plastic Santa bobbed out of the water. The weird thing is I’m not even sure Spanish people even really have Santa as part of their Christmas decorations.
I was glad I was in the sea because I was pretty sure I peed my pants.
My dad thought it was hilarious. He put melty-dead-guy-Santa into the boat to show my mom. About a week later, I woke up and it was in my bed.”
“As a teenager, I fell for every ‘advanced new technology’ in fishing. I spent a lot of money on some new kevlar fishing line and an expensive fishing lure. Not long after I started trying it out, my line got stuck on something. This kevlar line had a ridiculous test strength – probably in the hundreds of pounds.
I didn’t want to lose my new expensive fishing lure so I said, ‘Whatever, I’m pulling in whatever my line is caught on.’
I grabbed pliers from my tackle box, wrapped the line around it a bunch of times, and then started trudging it up. It was something heavy, I figured a downed tree limb or something.
When it made it to shore, it was a massive alligator snapping turtle.
And being an idiot teenager, I pulled the line so I could flip it on its back and stretch its neck out. Then I stepped down on its neck with my boot and unhooked my expensive fishing lure out of its mouth and then ran away as fast as I could.”
“A couple of years back, I went with a buddy and his family on vacation down to Florida. His dad is big on making crab cakes and all that, so we went out and bought all the gear for going crabbing in the everglades. On our way to our spot, I had seen a small alligator (maybe three feet long) and immediately started joking about how I wanted to catch a gator.
Fast forward, when we were catching the crabs. We were tying chicken necks to rope, throwing them out into the water, and slowly pulling them back towards shore and over a net. When the crab worked its way over the net, SWOOMP, crab! It was working pretty well with the four of us on the bank in different spots.
Well, I felt a little tug on the end of my rope, I didn’t think anything about it and told my buddy to grab the net I had one on the line. About the time he turned around with the net, a seven to eight feet gator came straight up out of the water with my rope hanging out of its mouth.
Long story short, it put a stop to our crabbing in that area.”
Burleigh Falls, Ontario
“Years ago, a few friends and I were fishing a river in between two different lakes called, Burleigh Falls in Ontario. We weren’t having much luck when we noticed what seemed be like a feeding frenzy near the water surface about 30 feet away. There were bubbles rising up and making a commotion on the water. None of us could figure out what it was,so we all started throwing our lures at it.
We were doing this for a few minutes when I finally caught onto (snagged) something. It was heavy and I pulled at it as much as I could.
After a full two minutes of reeling this thing in, a scuba diver popped up beside the boat and asked if ‘this belonged to one of us’ and pointed at the lure hooked on his gear.
We were more than a little freaked out by the situation and everyone had a good laugh about it but it wasn’t until after that, that we realized how it could have ended much differently if we decided to start the engine.
It was certainly the biggest thing I ever caught.”
Ancient Catfish Curse
“One day, I was fishing with my dad and my brother, and my dad caught a catfish. When we go fishing, we usually only catch Bluegill and the occasional turtle so we were very excited that day. It was too small to keep though so my dad started to take the hook out.
Now keep in mind, you can’t release catfish by holding them in your hand like a normal fish, they’ll slice your hand open, so my dad held it under his boot and took it out. This entire time he was working the hook out through this fish which it kept repeating, ‘Aflac.’
It sounded exactly like the duck from the commercial, only it sounded angry. We started laughing a bit at first, only it started saying it louder and faster, like some sort of ancient catfish curse. My dad got the hook out though and threw it back but still was weird.”
“I was fishing on the Smith River near the California and Oregon border. I had already caught two nice salmons that morning. Around midday, I was fishing in a deep hole when I snagged something. I thought I snagged a log. As I pulled the line, it came up slowly. I figured I caught a tree branch underwater or something like that.
I decided to pull real hard and it snapped my line. As I pulled again what I was snagged on, it finally broke free of what it was stuck on. Then I saw it rising fast. It was not until it was about a foot from the water when I realized what it was.
As soon as it breached the surface of the water, I wanted to die. This was a dead deer. It must have been stuck on something underwater because it was all bloated and clearly full of gas. The smell made me want to cut off my nose. There were about six other people fishing that hole. Within five minutes later, there was not a human near that part of the river.
There are not enough English words to describe how awful it smelled. I had to cut my line. A great day of fishing was ruined by that bloated Bambi corpse.”
First Time Fishing With Dad
“The first time I went fishing with my dad and brother, we were standing at the end of the pier looking like dolts not knowing what we were doing. A nice guy on the opposite end of the pier came over and gave us a hand setting up and gave us some tips on casting off and other essentials. Then left us to it.
After a while, my brother realized he had a bite and reeled it in. He pulled up a really ugly-looking fish and was about to grab it off the line when the guy who had been helping us previously stopped him.
He shouted across the pier, ‘DON’T TOUCH THAT!’
He came over and explained to us that it was a Lesser Weever which has poisonous spines on it. He just cut the line and kicked it back alive before explaining how you couldn’t kill them in case they wash up on the beach.
That saved us a trip to the emergency room!”
Target Ships, Chesapeake Bay
“We were fishing down in Southern Maryland at what is called the ‘Target Ships’ in the Chesapeake Bay. The ships are old navy vessels that have been set on concrete pillars so they remain above water. The military uses them for radar testing and test bombing runs.
It was about eight years ago during the summer. We were all on my dad’s Grady White fishing for croaker and flounder right near the ships. There were about 20 other boats in the area. The coast guard was patrolling the area, doing inspections on boats. Sure enough, the coast guard pulled up to my dad’s boat. They were on a big vessel with about 15 trainees. The officer and a trainee got onto our boat and started performing the inspection with the help of my dad.
Suddenly, my rod got very heavy.
The officer stopped his inspection and said, ‘Go ahead son, reel it up. Let’s see what you got.’
So I reeled and reeled. To all of our amazement, I caught an unexploded test bomb. The best way I could describe what it looked like was it had a cylindrical diamond shape to it, attached to neon green stabilizers, and it was 12 to 14 inches long, maybe four inches in diameter at its thickest part. Well, now the officer, the trainee, and the entire boat of coast guards had just witnessed what I brought out of the water. The trainee on our boat leaped to his boat, and they hauled away with their sirens on. He left the one officer on our boat. I was ordered to freeze and not make a move.
The coast guard got on our Very High Frequency (VHF) radio and told all the boats in the area to leave the target ships. After about 20 minutes of me sitting here, with this bomb on my line, the area was finally cleared away. The officer ordered my father to put the boat in drive, achieve a good bit of speed, and don’t stop. So my dad does as he was ordered.
He put the boat in gear, and we were rolling about 15 to 20 knots away from the ship. The officer brought out a knife, cut my line, and ordered my dad to just throttle the boat and get away as fast as he can.
Needless to say, it did not detonate when it hit the bottom of the bay. We took the officer, who was clearly shaken, back to his ship. I know it’s hard to believe this story without proof, but we were unable to get a picture of it, we tried, but the coast guard officer was adamant about us getting the heck out of there as quickly as possible.”