Creepiest Catches: Scary Stuff Found while Fishing
Sep 22, 2020 | 8 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 8 minutes

We all know that there are some terrifying things lurking under the water. Sharks, Squid – even Salmon can look terrifying when they spawn. People seek out these weird and wacky creatures for food or sport. But what about the catches that weren’t supposed to happen? Seeing as it’s spooky season, we’re looking at some of the strangest and scariest stuff found while fishing.

A Fish.. and a Snake!

A snake eating a fish

Picture the scene: You’re sitting by the river, minding your own business, when suddenly your line goes tight. You start to reel in what feels like a decent-sized Catfish when the line gets heavy and the fish goes crazy. As your catch breaks the water you realize – you’re not the only one after it.

Sound like a fish tale? Tell that to the Houston man who reeled in a Channel Catfish that was halfway through being eaten by a snake! The video tells the whole tale in this case, especially the confusion on the poor angler’s face. What do you even do in a situation like that? Impressively, he managed to release both the fish and the snake back into the wild to fight another day.

Of course, it’s not exactly rare to lose a fish to another predator. Many anglers know the pain of seeing a Shark bite their prized catch in half. Killer whales, dolphins, sea lions – they’re all known to snatch fish off your hooks. But a snake? That’s a new one, and a scary one to get your lure back from at that!

A Giant Eyeball

A giant eyeball being held in a pair of gloved hands
Source: Florida FWC, Flickr, BY-ND-2.0

Nothing says sea monster like a huge eye staring up at you from the water. The idea of some strange creature waiting beneath the waves is part of many seafaring myths. What really cranks things up a gear is when these creatures make their way onto land. Or even worse – just their giant, mysterious eyeball!

That’s exactly what one Florida man found on his morning walk along Pompano Beach. No fish, no carcass, just a single eyeball roughly the size of a softball. Oddly, the eye seemed pretty much unharmed, its piercing stare still looking deep into the soul of the poor Fish and Wildlife officers who were told to work out its origin.

Was this an alien? Some unknown predator of the deep? Turns out, it was a Swordfish. “That’s not very scary,” you say. Well, hold your horror horses for just one second and think. How on earth did a lone eyeball find its way onto Pompano Beach? What happened to the rest of the fish? Most importantly, Swordfish are apex predators, so what the heck took its eye out?

A Live Grenade

A rusted hand grenade on a wet surface

So far, we’ve mainly focused on our more primal fears like snakes and sea monsters. However, sometimes the thing that makes a catch scary is the very real threat it poses. No, we don’t mean Shark fishing, or even Catfish noodling. We’re talking about reeling in live explosives.

Picturing a war-torn wasteland or an old battleground? Nope, Indiana. That’s where one man recently hauled in a hand grenade while fishing in his local river. Luckily, he kept his cool, phoning the police who came to secure the device. Where the grenade came from, or how it ended up in the Little Calumet River, remains a mystery.

Want to know the craziest part? This isn’t even that uncommon! Old guns and explosives are frequently found in rivers and lakes. They’re usually snagged by people magnet fishing – this case included. In fact, some European countries have banned the sport, for fear of dredging up WWII bombs.

Mutant Fish

A blue Lingcod fish facing the camera

Now for a classic. Every angler knows a friend of a friend whose uncle’s cousin caught some crazy mutant fish that one time. In 99% of cases, it’s just a tall tale, a fisherman’s story probably repeated and refined by hundreds of different people. But what if it was true?

Every once in a while, it is. You can find all kinds of bizarre beings reeled in from the ocean, from two-tone lobsters to bright blue Lingcod (and yes, the meat is also blue!). Some anglers have even come across once-in-a-lifetime catches like albino Marlin. That’s pretty much the unicorn of the sea.

There’s more than just unicorns out there. The cyclops also roams the ocean. Or at least, it did, until it was caught by a charter boat in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. At first, everyone assumed this one-eyed, albino Shark was a hoax. However, the country’s Center for Ocean Sciences stepped in to confirm that it was a true mutant. Stranger things really have happened at sea.

Giant, Ancient Antlers

A statue of an ancient giant elk

Have you ever wondered where mythical monsters came from? Griffins, dragons, hydras – how did people dream up these incredible creatures? According to some academics, they were probably inspired by fossils. Take a dinosaur bone and a mammoth tusk, throw in a pterodactyl wing or two, and you have yourself a beast worthy of ancient legend.

So picture the scene as an angler, relaxing by your local lake in Ireland, when you pull out a set of 6-inch-wide antlers. What’s your first thought? “This is probably from some extinct species of moose”? Of course not! You’re thinking “What kind of horror have I awoken, and will it feast on my nightmares?” The answer is probably yes.

Luckily, it’s the 21st century, so a little local publicity and a few quick phone calls identified the creature as a 10,000-year-old giant elk. Not super scary, we admit. But imagine reeling this in a few hundred years ago. How would people have reacted to it, and what lake-dwelling life form would they have thought it came from? It could easily have inspired a folk story.

A Million Dollars Worth of Cocaine

Three packages wrapped in black plastic and parcel tape, with a brick wall behind

This one’s straight out of a crime thriller. You’re trolling along, hoping for a big Mahi Mahi or a Tuna, when your line snags on a lump of ocean trash. You haul it in, planning to dispose of it once you get back to shore. That’s when you see it: dozens of ominous blocks, all neatly packed in plastic wrapping. You’ve just stumbled into a million-dollar drug bust.

Sound like a movie? Nope, this was the real-life experience of two anglers fishing offshore from Charleston, SC. When they got back into radio range, they immediately contacted the Coast Guard, who boarded the vessel and took possession of the illegal drugs. Apparently, they’d found as much as one million dollars worth of cocaine!

This is terrifying on several levels. First, imagine the moment when you realize what you’ve just found. Then, picture the ride back to shore, wondering if you’ll make it before whoever owns the stuff comes looking for it. Lastly, imagine being boarded before you could get the word out and having to explain where your trophy catch came from!

Horrors from the Deep

An anglerfish lit up by its own light in dark water

If there’s one thing we know about the ocean, it’s that there are a lot of scary fish in it. From Great White Sharks to Giant Squid, the seas are full of terrifying things. And it seems like the freakiest finds often come from the bottom of the ocean. They’re always there, hiding in the dark, just waiting for some unsuspecting angler to drop some bait their way.

Every so often, one of these fish makes it to the surface. Take this wide-eyed weirdo that a Norwegian fisherman was unlucky enough to catch. How about the 17’ sea serpent that washed up on Catalina Island a few years ago? You’ve also got your more run-of-the-mill monsters like Anglerfish, that professional fishing crews deal with regularly.

And that brings us onto a very important point: You’ve probably eaten a sea monster of two in your time. Ever tried Monkfish? How about Chilean Sea Bass? If you came across these guys when they were whole, you’d think they were props from a horror movie. Heck, even Halibut look pretty gross when you get face to face with them!

Fish Flying onto the Boat

A Barracuda fish facing the camera

Alright, deep-water fish look pretty weird, but you’re safe on the surface, right? Wrong. If anything, fishing the topwaters is even scarier. It isn’t the way fish look that’s the problem this time, though – it’s the way they act. Yes, we’re talking about species that jump right out of the water and straight at the anglers trying to catch them!

One of the prime culprits here is Barracuda, a fish that looks every bit as nasty as it is. They’re famous for taking chunks out of your catch as you try to get it aboard. Occasionally, though, they set their sights a little higher and launch themselves right onto the boat. This can cause serious damage to any angler unlucky enough to get in the way.

Flying Barracudas not doing it for you? How about a 600 lb Black Marlin crashing bill-first into the cockpit? That’s exactly what happened aboard a charter boat in Cairns, Australia – a city famous for its incredible Marlin fishing. Luckily, no-one was seriously hurt this time, but not everybody gets off so lightly!

Skulls, Bones, and Yes, Bodies

A skull and bones resting on the sea floor

Let’s be honest, we all knew this was going to be on the list. Snakes and eyeballs are all well and good, but nothing says spooky like a human skull. Unfortunately, we’re not referring to the plastic decorations or novelty candles you may have bought for Halloween. No, we’re talking about people finding the real deal at the end of their line.

Our story starts in Sweden, the most unthreatening country imaginable. Two friends were out on the canal, hoping for a Pike, a Perch – even a Pikeperch would do. Instead, they found themselves face to face with the eyeless stare of a human skull. They quickly contacted the police, who took the remains and opened a murder investigation!

You thought that was bad? We’re just warming up. Finding a corpse in the nets is a classic sailors’ tale, that came true at least once recently. Then there’s the poor fisherman in Indonesia who thought he’d won his local fishing tournament, only to realize that his catch was most definitely not a fish. At this point, you almost have to wonder if it’s a coincidence or a curse.

And More!

A full moon reflecting on the sea

This is some of the spookiest and scariest stuff found while fishing, but it’s nowhere near a complete list. Anglers come across unexpected finds every day. Most of it just gets treated as a fish tale, but it might be worth taking these stories seriously. As the saying goes, “stranger things have happened at sea.”

What’s the strangest thing you’ve found while fishing? Ever had a scary encounter on the water? Drop us your stories in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

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Comments (2)
  • Alan Wiles

    Oct 20, 2020

    One day in the mid 1980’s while fishing at Lake Mead,NV. I caught a diaper bag full of water.

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      Oct 20, 2020

      Hi Alan,

      That sounds more gross than creepy, but still one you wouldn’t forget.

      Hopefully, it’s been nothing but fish since then!

      Tight lines!

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