Strangest Fishing Catches
Fish long enough and you're bound to hook and reel in some very odd items
When a fisherman goes fishing, he expects to catch fish, right? Well, that’s not always what happens. And it’s not always an old boot the fisherman hooks either.
Consider the case of Rick Nascak. While fishing the Mississippi River in Minnesota, Rick snagged the skull and antlers of a bull elk. The thing is elk haven’t lived in Minnesota in 150 years! Scientists say the skull may be 1,000 years old.
When a California angler dropped his bait over the side, an octopus grabbed it and carried it into its home. The fisherman didn’t know that, of course, and when he reeled up his line, he was surprised to find he’d caught a beer bottle full of octopus instead of beer.
An angler in Arkansas caught an octopus, too. John Mazurek of Glenn Ellyn, Illinois, was fishing on Lake Conway when he made the unusual catch—690 miles from the nearest saltwater! The Game and Fish Commission said Mazurek’s fishing license would cover octopusing, and they commended him for not exceeding the daily limit on the species.
My Facebook friend Chris Hammill describes an unusual “release and catch” incident he experienced. He says, “I lost an anchor at North Carolina’s Lake Tillery once, and three years later, I hooked and retrieved it close to the same spot. The rope was in rough shape, but the anchor was still perfect.”
My good friend Jim Mize once landed a pair of men’s underwear while fly fishing. “They were my size,” he says, “but since it was a catch-and-release stream, I wasn’t sure if I had to let them go. But I did look around for the naked guy.”
Fishing writer Andy Whitcomb at justkeepreeling.com interviewed several Bassmaster Elite anglers about their strangest catches.
Casey Ashley told Whitcomb he has caught beer cans that “fool you until you see them.” Mark Menendez caught a pair of roller skates with laces tied. Alton Jones landed the frame of a grandfather clock, which weighed about 30 pounds, and panty hose at a different lake.
Mike Iaconelli said he once caught a sex toy. He also shared a story about falling out of his boat and snagging his life jacket. He lost the personal flotation device when he took it off to climb back in the boat and retrieved it a year later when he hooked it with a crankbait.
Whitcomb himself once made a strange catch. “I was fishing a lake in North Dakota, dragging a crawler harness across the bottom for trout or walleye, and reeled in an animal skull, possibly from a cat. That was our sign that we were done fishing that night!”
Some items that get hooked fool anglers into thinking they’re tussling with the fish of a lifetime.
Jay Poindexter of Conroe, Texas, says, “I thought I had a monster catfish once while drift fishing on Lake Conroe. Turns out I’d hooked a submerged 50-gallon barrel. And I managed to pull it up in 40 feet of water!”
Indiana angler Delbert Davis Jr. got a good fight out of an aluminum lawn chair. “I hooked it while fishing a bass tournament on Kentucky Lake,” he says, “and fought it for a long time before realizing what I had.”
Outdoor writer Tim Mead was fishing with his son Craig when Tim hooked a big one—or so they thought. “Craig grabs the net,” Tim says. “The fish goes left, then goes right. It swirls under the boat. Maybe it will come up the other side, we think. But soon I land it—not a fish but a one-gallon, glass bottle broken in the side and filled with sand. I’d hooked it in the broken spot and enjoyed quite a battle as it wobbled side to side.”
Joe Sills of Brownsville, Tennessee, thought he’d hooked a big striped bass while sauger fishing below Pickwick Dam. “It twisted and turned with the strong current, and its shiny glint could be seen in the depths as it refused to be subdued,” he says. “Finally after much lifting and reeling, an intact aluminum boat ladder came to the waiting net.”
Animals other than fish sometimes get hooked as well. Yours truly has reeled in Mexican pelicans, South American caimans, Arkansas bats (the flying kind, caught while fly fishing) and, once, while practice-casting in the yard, an uncle’s favorite bird dog.
My friend Len Pitcock caught a bullfrog—on a soft-plastic frog lure. And Tennessee fishing guide Richard Simms reports that a friend’s son once hooked a beaver. The friend said, “Did you know a beaver will jump just like a damn bass?”
Wyoming magazine editor Chris Madson reports that an 8-pound Muscovy duck is a fun catch too. “Tell you what—they’ll give you a hell of a fight on ultralight spinning tackle,” he told me.
Retired Arkansas fisheries biologist Robert Zachary made one of the weirdest fish catches, and it was accomplished in a most unusual way.
“I was fishing for white bass below a dam on the Arkansas River when I hooked something on a small jig,” he notes. “Half an hour later, and 200 yards down the river bank, I landed a lamprey eel still attached to a 10-pound blue catfish. My jig had foul-hooked the lamprey, and amazingly, my 6-pound-test line didn’t break, and the lamprey wouldn’t release its catch either.”
Some catches are rather macabre. Consider, for example, the case of Scottish fisherman William Gault. On January 14, 1992, William’s brother Jim was lost overboard from the fishing boat Dayspring 40 miles off the coast of Scotland. An air-and-sea search failed to recover Jim’s body. Three months later, on April 7, while William was fishing from the same boat, he hauled in a human body. From the clothes on the corpse, he recognized the body as his brother.
A guy named Ryan Snow made one of the weirdest catches ever. While fishing for trout in a Washington lake, he hooked something on the bottom. He thought it might be a log, but when he reeled in, he discovered it was a wedding gown. He told reporters he was glad there was nobody in it.
There was somebody in the wet suit reeled in by a 13-year-old boy fishing in the Netherlands’ North Sea. A Dutch scuba diver became the surprise catch of the day when the youngster accidentally snagged him in the lip.
“I heard a sound on my head and immediately I felt a jerk on my lip,” Wim van Huffelen was quoted by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. The daily ran a photo of the diver with the hook impaling his lower lip. The diver was swimming near shore at the Dutch town of Zierikzee when he was caught.
When Nolan Calvin cleaned a large lake trout he caught at Idaho’s Priest Lake, he found he’d reeled in something incredible: a severed human finger swallowed by the fish. When deputies from the Bonner County Sheriff’s Department investigated, they linked the finger through fingerprints to Haans Galassi of Colbert, who lost four digits in a wakeboarding accident. The sheriff’s office offered to return the finger to Galassi, but he declined. “I’m like, uhhh, I’m good,” he said.
The number-one weird catch of the day goes to Bob Greene of Hallowell, Maine. When he went fishing on the Kennebec River in July 2008, Greene was hoping to catch some striped bass. Instead, he hooked and landed a 25-year-old man, an act that saved the man’s life.
Greene was bank fishing when he saw what looked like a log in the river and heard a faint call of “Help.” The “log” turned out to be Michael Gibbs of Augusta, who later told police he jumped into the river from a 114-foot-high bridge upstream. Greene considered jumping into the 60-degree water to save Gibbs, but called 911 first. The dispatcher suggested he throw something to the man instead. That prompted Greene to make a cast with his 7-foot spinning rod and 25-pound-test line. The topwater plug he threw landed beyond Gibbs 35 yards offshore. But Greene managed to hook the desperate man’s shirt.
“It was a struggle to get him out of the current so I could reel him in,” Greene said. A police officer, alerted by Greene’s 911 call, arrived just in time to help Greene pull Gibbs out of the water, alive but in critical condition.
Greene was praised for his heroic fishing effort, but one local couldn’t resist noting, “Thanks goodness it was after the first of the month or he could have been ticketed for fishing with live bait!”