17 Mind-blowing Fishing Tales
Anglers are well known for exaggerating the facts about their catches, which makes these amazing true stories seem even more incredible
Monster Shark Caught From a Pier
On June 14, 1964, Walter Maxwell made one of the most incredible catches of all time. He was fishing from the Cherry Grove pier near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when he landed the current world-record tiger shark, which weighed a tremendous 1,780 pounds. Using a 16/0 reel that held 1,400 yards of 130-pound-test line, he managed to land the 13-foot, 11-inch fish after just 4-1/2 hours.
Amazingly, Maxwell had fought the same huge fish for hours the day before but lost it when it broke his line. Undeterred, he rested a few hours then went back after the monster shark again. This time he was successful.
Two Records, One Day
The chances of catching a state-record fish are extremely small. Two anglers catching two records the same day from the same boat borders on the impossible, but it has been done.
On April 15, 1984, William Garvey of Indianapolis landed a 5-pound, 2-ounce white bass on the Arkansas portion of Bull Shoals Lake, establishing a new Arkansas state record. His lunker white bass surpassed a 4-pound, 15-ounce state-record white caught from the White River nearly 15 years earlier.
Garvey’s record didn’t stand as long as the Beaver Lake fish, however. In fact, it didn’t last the rest of the day. You see, Garvey’s fishing partner, William Wilson, also of Indianapolis, landed a white bass only a few hours later that pulled the scales to 5 pounds, 4 ounces, and a new state record was established.
Wilson’s 5-pound, 4-ounce record remained unbroken for more than 20 years.
Two Records, One Month
During Fourth of July weekend in 2006, while fishing the 58th Annual Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, Donnie Simmons of Pass Christian, Mississippi, set a new Mississippi state record when he caught a 99-pound, 8-ounce amberjack. The fish broke the old record of 96 pounds set in 1984, a record many in the saltwater fishing community felt would never be broken.
After his record fish was weighed in, Simmons said, “Our goal is to get a triple-digit amberjack.” And lo and behold, he did just that, landing a 106-pound, 9-ounce amberjack, another Mississippi state record, just days later.
A 43.13-pound Texas common carp landed in Austin’s Town Lake during the Texas Carp Challenge in March 2006 earned angler Al St. Cyr an astounding payday. The American Carp Society, sponsor of the Challenge, paid him a cool $250,000 for his state-record catch, the largest prize ever for a carp fisherman in the U.S. We’d say that carp definitely was no trash fish.
On May 29, 1992, Dorothy Taylor of Ft. Scott, Kansas, was fishing at Lake Fort Scott when she caught a 53-pound flathead catfish. To her surprise, when the fish was cleaned, inside its stomach was a 1-1/2-pound channel cat with her hook in its mouth. The flathead had swallowed the channel cat tail first.
One That Got Away
In July 2006, after catching a tagged Red River bass potentially worth $25,000—but not knowing what the tag signified—Fred Revils Jr. of Shreveport, Louisiana, allowed his fishing partner to throw the catch back.
“You cannot believe how sick I’ve been since I found out, and I know I’m gonna hear about this for a couple of years,” Revils said. Yes, Mr. Revils, you are.
In July 2004, three anglers fishing Minnesota’s Green Lake turned on an underwater camera to see why the walleye below them weren’t biting. Instead of fish, they found the wreck of a small military plane that crashed into the lake on October 15, 1958.
Divers who photographed the plane 40 feet below the surface said its description matched the Cessna L-19 Birddog plane piloted by Capt. Richard Carey, a Minnesota National Guard member who lived in nearby Willmar. Carey’s body was found in the lake two weeks after the crash. Numerous searches for the plane were conducted in the years since the crash, including one by a man using a mini-sub he made from a 1,000 gallon liquid-propane tank. But the plane remained lost until the anglers found it.
On August 3, 2001, Charles Ashley Jr. of Marion, Arkansas, landed a 116-pound, 12-ounce world-record blue catfish in the Arkansas portion of the Mississippi River. He caught it on a rather unusual bait that his father and grandfather had used for decades when catfishing—a chunk of Hormel Spam. Might want to give that one a try next time you’re after a jumbo whiskerfish.
Conrad Wood of El Dorado, Arkansas, was well-known as the creator of such fishing lures as the Dipsy Doodle and the Sonic. He once bet some anglers at a fish camp that he could catch a bass on a sweet potato. Obtaining a spud, Wood sliced it in half, inserted a wire holding a treble hook through the pointed end and tied his line to the protruding loop at the flat-cut end. He worked the floating tater like a chugger plug around cypress knees, and quickly caught a fat bass.
Krazy Glue to the Rescue
A woman who fell asleep while fishing in a rowboat on a Minnesota Lake won the “How Krazy Glue Saved the Day Contest.”
The lady was more than a mile from shore when water rising over her feet awakened her. She tried to mop up the water with a shirt, but it kept gushing in through a small hole in the bottom of the boat.
Fortunately, the woman had a tube of Krazy Glue in her tackle box that she used when making fishing lures. She cut a piece of leather from one of her boots then used the glue to stick it over the leak.
“The leak stopped and I kept on fishing,” she said.
“By the way,” she added. “I can’t swim. Krazy Glue saved my life!”
24-Hour Fish Fight
In 1993, while fishing from their 25-foot boat, My Turn II, off Southern California, Karl Kogler and Steve Crilly had to take turns fighting what must have been the most stubborn swordfish ever hooked. The broadbill took a bait at 2 p.m. and fought for 23 hours 45 minutes before Kogler and Crilly had it whipped. The swordfish, which was hooked on 30-pound-test line, weighed 213 pounds, 8 ounces.
Death by Catfish
A July 2000 edition of London’s Daily Express newspaper reported a huge catfish—around 9 feet long, witnesses said—pulled an Austrian angler into a lake and towed him to his death. Anto Schwarz, 45, shouted to his fellow fishermen when he hooked the giant fish, a wels catfish, and tried to keep hold of his rod.
After several minutes struggling, the fish pulled Schwartz off balance and dragged him into Eva Maria Lake near Vienna. Entangled in his line and unable to swim, he drowned.
Believe It or Not!
According to a 1951 “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” column, when James Price of Locust Grove, Arkansas accidentally dropped his dentures into Bull Shoals Lake, he wrote them off as a loss. But 10 days later, he got them back when he caught the 20-pound catfish that had swallowed them!
In 2005, British golf pro Gary Hagues caught an 83-pound, 8-ounce, world-record mirror carp from France’s Rainbow Lake. After the fish was officially weighed, he tagged and released it.
Hagues returned to Rainbow Lake in 2006 to enjoy a free vacation he won for catching the first carp. And, against all odds, on November 30, 2006, he caught the same fish again to set another world record. This time the monster carp weighed 87 pounds, 2 ounces.
“It was as strong-willed as it was the year before,” said Hagues, who released the fish once more. “Maybe it will get even bigger.”
British angler Dave Martin was fishing in England’s River Idle in September 1988 when he disturbed a wasps’ nest hidden in the rotten log he was sitting on. The wasps poured out, found their way inside Martin’s clothes and stung him numerous times.
Martin leaped into the river but found he was not welcome among the fish he had been hoping to catch, either. A large pike bit through his pants and slashed his leg.
Saved by Silicone
In “Uncle John’s The World Must Be Crazy” is recounted the interesting tale of Denise Leblance. In 2003, Leblance and Mark Marzoni were deep-sea fishing off the coast of Panama when Marzoni hooked a huge marlin estimated to weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Marzoni was trying to reel in the fish as Leblance, leaning over the side of the boat, filmed the catch.
The marlin was nearly in the boat when it jumped and impaled Leblanc with its sharp sword-like snout, spearing through her right arm, her right breast and her side. The fish fell back into the water. Leblanc collapsed on the deck.
Marzoni rushed to Leblance’s aid and noticed her right breast was gone. Later, at the hospital, doctors made an astonishing discovery. The marlin’s bill had shoved Leblanc’s silicone implant through her rib cage and into her chest cavity, preventing the sharp snout from puncturing her lung and possibly killing her.
You Gotta Have Heart
In his book “Masters’ Secrets of Catfishing,” John Phillips relates one of the most mind-blowing fishing stories we’ve ever heard.
After a very serious heart operation where a portion of his heart was cut away, the late Otis “Toad” Smith went fishing for catfish, one of his favorite pastimes. Smith had told the doctors before the operation that he wanted to keep whatever portion of his heart they cut out. He said his heart belonged to him.
According to Phillips, “Smith kept the part of his heart in a glass jar filled with formaldehyde. One day after he came home from the hospital, he looked at the piece of his heart in that jar and decided his heart should perform some useful function. He poured the formaldehyde out and replaced the liquid with Fish Formula’s Catfish Scent. The first time he went fishing, he took a piece of his old heart from the jar, baited it on a hook and cast it out into the river. In just a few minutes, he caught an 8-pound catfish.”