Fishermen Reveal Their Weirdest Catches

By Kevin Cheatley
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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

What if you were fishing one day and managed to reel in an object, weird fish or some other organism that surprised you to the point of almost having a heart attack? Many fishermen have had such experiences, and we’ve gathered their best advice for keeping safe and alert every time your rod is cast.

Santa Rescue in the Sea

I was fishing with my Dad off the coast of Mallorca in Spain when I was about 15. It was really warm 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).

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Around these cave-like rocks, I spotted what looked like a corpse. I started trying to dive down, but I’m not a super strong swimmer so every time I got to about 10 feet away from it I had to come back up for air. Eventually, my Dad got to it and discovered it was a slimy life-size plastic Santa. I’m glad I was in the sea because I’m pretty sure I peed my pants. My Dad thought it was hilarious.

An Explosive Find

We were fishing down in Southern Maryland and 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.

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Suddenly, my rod became very heavy. The officer stopped his inspection and said “Go ahead son, reel it up. Let’s see what you got”. I pulled it in and it turned out to be an unexploded test explosive. The officer brandished his knife and cut my line. He then 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. I know its 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 quick as possible.

Deadly Catch

This happened the first time I went fishing with my dad and brother. A nice guy on the opposite end of the pier came over and gave us a hand setting up as well as some tips on casting off etc before leaving 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 shouted “DON’T TOUCH THAT!!” He came over and explained to us that it was a Lesser Weever. He just cut the line and kicked it back alive before explaining that you can’t kill them in case they wash up on the beach.

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Tough Catfish

A few years back I went catfishing at a river not far from my house. I was fishing for shad on an egg sinker a few feet deep when I got a very weak hit. I set the hook and started reeling in and whatever was on the other end was heavy, but not fighting…like at all. I saw the tail rise out of the water a few times, so I knew it was a fish, but the thing just kept flaccid. When I landed it I found out just how tough catfish are. Someone had caught this fish before, cut off the filets and released it back into the river. This fish had been stripped of all muscle but was fully healed, still swimming and even hunting. I put it out of its misery, but that poor fish was tough as nails.

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Nature in Action

I guess it was more the experience that was weird, but I caught a small walleye and was actually lifting it out of the water when a HUGE northern pike jumped in out of the blue, engulfed the walleye and dove back into the lake. When we looked inside it later, there was a pristine fully intact walleye sitting in its belly! Awesome experience.

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Dogs of the Deep

One time when I was about 7 or 8, at around dusk when it was getting hard to see, I was fishing with my dad from a rowboat. I had caught something and reached over the side of the boat to pull in what I expected to be another pan fish. However, what I grabbed was slimy and had arms and hands!! I dropped it in the boat and yelled for dad to take a look. He laughed. It was a mud puppy. I had never seen one in my home town’s lake before but he obviously had.

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The Captured Fish

I was fishing with my dad and he reeled in a fish, except there was another fish right next to it. It seemed weird, and when he pulled his catch up onto the dock, the bonus fish landed on the dock too. Well as we figured out, fish number 1 had taken someone’s bait, but the line must have broken off. He then proceeded to spit out the hook with some bait still on it, while a bunch of line was still lodged in his stomach. Fish #2 then decided to eat the bait trailing from fish #1’s butt. Must have just happened too or else they both would have probably been dead. No one believes him when he tells the story.

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A Rare Sight

When I was a 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 jerk. He yelled a lot and wasn’t very patient. I’d already gotten some tackle caught in someone else’s line, so he begrudgingly came over to me when I was later 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 12lb pollock that was half my size. The rest of the boat fixed their rods and came over, told me they call those ‘Grunters’ and that you rarely ever see one.

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Alligator Fish?

When fishing, I thought my hook had gotten caught up on a log, but the log rose up and it was a 42″ musky! I was terrified and said to the other guy in the canoe, “I caught an alligator!” The thing dragged the canoe around for a half hour before we got it up. The 3.5′ fish thrashed around in the canoe until it broke the line and literally jumped out of the boat. It was the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever had fishing.

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Leviathan of the Deep

As a child I went fishing off of a pier in Florida. A woman in her 40’s was reeling in something huge! As it got closer to the water, she needed three men to hold onto the pole with her. It was a manta ray, and it’s wingspan was easily 15-20 feet across. A real sea monster!

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A Near Priceless Find

My parents and three siblings were fishing at Castaic Lake about 15 years ago and my older brother, who was probably 10 at the time, was skipping rocks while he was waiting for a catch. He picked up this one off looking rock and ran over to my dad to show him. Turns out that it wasn’t a rock at all, but a fossilized baby megalodon tooth from millions of years ago. Needless to say, we kept it.

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A Not-So-Friendly Turtle

While fishing, I grabbed pliers from my tackle box and wrapped the line around it a bunch of times and then started pulling my catch up. It was something heavy, but I figured it was a downed tree limb or something. When it made it to shore, it was a huge alligator snapping turtle. I pulled the line so as to flip it on its back and stretch its neck out. Then I stepped down with my boot and unhooked my expensive fishing lure out of its mouth before running away as fast as I could.

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Pelican Wrestling

I’ll never forget about accidentally hooking a pelican when fishing off a pier. My brother and I were fishing and my father was sitting back about 50ft or so watching us. I caught the pelican near its wing when I went back to cast. Now, the pelican ended up being fine. But it was funny watching my father wrestle that thing to get the hook out.

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Fishermen Almost Become the Prey

I went with a buddy and his family on vacation down to Florida a couple years back. 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 into our spot, I had seen a small alligator (maybe 3ft/1 meter) and immediately started joking about how I wanted to catch a gator. While catching crabs, 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 because I had one on the line. Around the time he turned around with the net, a 7-8 foot 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.

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A Rare Fish Sighting

One evening I was fishing at our riverfront property, and I’m not sure why but I left my pole in the water while I went inside for lunch. When I came back out, it was stuck in between some rocks in shallow water. I walked out and grabbed the pole and it started to fight back. When I reeled it in I found a 14″ or so alligator gar. I had never seen one before and had no idea what sort of prehistoric beast I had caught. It’s pretty amazing that the thing didn’t break my line with its gnarly teeth.

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An Unexpected Catch

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 until we noticed what seemed to be like a feeding frenzy near the water surface about 30 feet away. I snagged something. It was HEAVY and I pulled at it as much as I could.

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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 we realized how it could have ended much differently if we decided to start the engine. It’s certainly the biggest thing I ever caught.

A Long Way from Home

Much of my mum’s side of the family as well as my dad worked on a trawler off the north-east coast of Scotland. The weirdest story I can remember at the moment is when they caught some kind of tropical fish from south of the equator. How it got to these much colder waters on the other side of the planet without passing away en route is a mystery. They put it back in after they had identified it.

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What Have I Caught?

Living in Alaska I’d expect more strange stuff – but not really: as I was dragging it up, I saw what looks like a giant mass of kelp on my hook. I know I wasn’t dragging on the bottom, so I figured I just came across a kelp farm. It was a wolf eel instead. It had two large, protruding teeth in the lower jaw. I even stopped a State Trooper and fishing and game official because I had NO CLUE what I had just pulled out of the water. They told me it was a wolf eel and to go ahead and throw it back if I wasn’t going to eat it. By far the weirdest I’ve seen.

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Mission Accomplished

I was deep sea fishing with my family when we were on vacation. Before we left I had said that I wanted to catch the ugliest fish in the ocean. Our captain took us out on the water and handed me the rod that he had cast out. I reeled it in and pulled up an oyster toadfish. He looked at me while I was reeling it in and said: “That has got to be the ugliest fish in the ocean.” I considered it a successful trip.

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Ancient Alaskan

I fish in the Copper River up in Alaska and found the oldest human pieces of human skeleton ever found in the state. It was about 25% of the skull. We turned it over to the troopers who sent it off for testing. The test showed it was around 2000 years old.

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The Insulated Catfish

We once pulled a steel barrel out of a lake. It was fully intact, and the cap was missing. After draining all the water out of it, we heard a loud flopping sound inside. Upon prying the lid off the barrel we discovered a  large catfish inside. The only way we could figure it ended up in there was by swimming through the small opening from the missing cap which was maybe two inches in diameter. It must have done this as a baby and had been trapped in that barrel for years, growing and unable to escape until we set it free.

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An Innocent Bluegill Catch Goes Awry

When I was a little kid, I caught a small bluegill that was maybe four inches long. As I was reeling it in I saw a shimmer in the water. My Grandpa told me to drop my rod. I, as a nine-year-old, said, “Forget that! I caught a fish!” and kept reeling it in. At some point I noticed my Grandpa was already on top of the picnic table we had our gear on, yelling at his buddy to get me.

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Here I am still reeling in my awesome fish. Boy, this little Bluegill is fighting hard to not get caught! My Grandpas buddy slapped the rod out of my hand and pulled me back in time to see the huge snake that had my bluegill in its mouth and somehow had gotten itself hooked as well. You see, an extreme fear of snakes is a family trait. I shudder to think what would have happened if my Grandpa’s buddy hadn’t come along.

A Haul with Real Substance

When I was 8 years old, I reeled in a small duffel bag full of soaking wet bricks of a grassy looking substance I didn't recognize. Weird thing is, it turned out to not be the first time that this had happened in my town. My dad took the bag the moment I pulled it onshore and threw it in his truck. I didn’t realize what I had caught until I was a bit older.

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A Beefy Snag

I was fishing with my father on a river north of Seattle back in the '80s. I had cast out across the flow of the river and was doing a slow retrieve looking for trout. I snagged onto something that I thought was a log, but then it started slowly pulling on my rod. I was able to make some headway (no pun intended) on retrieving it, but as it got near the bank of the river, I could see that I had snagged a full-size cow's head that had been floating down the river.

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A Tasty Catch

This happened when I was a kid fishing in a local man-made lake in Texas. My line floated toward the wooden ledge at the water’s edge, and a little crawfish or crawdad tried to snake my worm! I had no idea that type of creature would be lurking around in the area.

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Fishing Without a Permit

My brother and I were fishing in a lake last year, and we pulled a hat with a fishing license on it out of the water. It was an out of state license, but it had the guy’s name and location. We used Facebook to message him and gave him his slimy, drenched hat back.

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Sting Rays Hate Him for Some Reason

My brother and I do a lot of fishing, him especially. Between us, we have caught the same fish multiple times, birds, turtles, people (unknown random tourists getting too close on an overhead cast), a sea lion, octopus, clams, crabs and a lobster.

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But by far the most memorable was catching the stingray that almost killed my brother. He pulled up a ray that was only about a foot long and was trying to unhook it. It went scorpion tail on him and jabbed its barb directly into an artery in his hand. When it came out, it turned into a medical emergency and the blood began squirting profusely out of his hand.

He had had a few drinks, so he was just kinda in shock and didn’t know what to do. Luckily, my buddies get him down the dock and into their car to go to the ER. He goes into shock in the car and blacks out, loses consciousness and wets himself. They get him to the ER, docs stitch him up, give him a bunch of meds and he goes home that evening. He required a few surgeries on his hand, and its still a gnarly scar.

Flash forward a couple of years and we are surf fishing in the same spot next to the pier he got stung at. He steps on a stingray, and it hits him in his Achilles’ tendon. I get him to the beach, where he promptly loses consciousness once again due to the stingray toxin. I manage to get him up and talking and carry him on my back about a half-mile to the parking lot. That guy has the worst luck in the world sometimes.

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Snakes of the Sea

The weirdest thing I’ve caught is a freshwater eel. I thought I’d somehow managed to catch a snake because it looked serpentine in the water and I didn’t know there was such a thing as a freshwater eel. They’re a pain because all they do is tangle line. They’re good for catfishing, though.

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Poor Bambi

I was fishing on the Smith River near the California/Oregon border. Around mid-day, I was fishing in a deep hole when I snagged something. I thought it was a log, so I decided to pull real hard and snapped my line. It turned out to be a deer corpse. It must have been stuck on something under water because it was all bloated and clearly full of gas. The smell was indescribable.

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