Not So Tall Fish Tales

By Shaun Morey

"Are all anglers liars, or do all liars fish?" goes the old saying. Not according to this writer, who claims every one of these stories is completely and utterly true!

Nearsighted Monkfish

While leaning over the rail of a boat off the Belgian coast, Gosselin Deleus lost his prescription glasses. A month later, the glasses were discovered in the belly of a monkfish. Deleus learned of the discovery while reading a local fishing magazine that had reported the catch. He contacted the fisherman, who returned the glasses.

Label Your Belongings

In Stockholm, Sweden, a fisherman harvesting wild mussels in the cold Norwegian Sea was shucking his catch when he came across an engagement ring engraved with a name. The ring was returned to its grateful owner, who'd lost it overboard two years earlier.

Aquarium Snatch

When fisherman Matthew Clark stood in front of the cameras and accepted his first-place check, the crowd cheered. His bass was a lunker at 13 pounds and easily outweighed the competition in the annual Bailiwick Bass Club Open — until local bass fisherman Shane Bentley spotted something familiar. Bentley had recently visited a nearby aquarium, where he'd seen a similarly sized fish swimming in one of the tanks. Both fish had unusual markings across their foreheads. Bentley returned to the aquarium and alerted the director, who discovered the bass was missing. Local police were called, and Clark was arrested. Turns out the tournament cheat was desperate to pay off a debt, so he broke into the aquarium at night by scaling an adjacent cliff with a rope ladder. After a thorough investigation, Clark admitted to the theft, was fined 100 hours of community service, and forbidden to enter future local tournaments.

A Two-Ring Tale

Leon Hale of The Houston Chronicle reported that a man fishing for snapper outside of Freeport, Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico lost an heirloom ring overboard. The ring had been passed down from generation to generation and contained his great-grandfather's initials, JHC, on the inside of the band. A year later, that same fisherman was cleaning a catch of snapper when he spotted a ring inside one of the fish bellies. Unfortunately, it was not his ring. But it was engraved with initials and the name of a small high school in Illinois. The fisherman contacted the school and was able to track down the ring's owner, a very nice young woman. The two began corresponding and eventually married. Years later, they were visiting San Francisco and stopped at a fishmonger's shop in Chinatown. On a shelf near the back of the shop was a collection of objects for sale — objects the fishmonger had found inside the bellies of the fish he sold. There were money clips, military dog tags, miscellaneous jewelry, pocket knives, coins, and yes, you guessed it, an heirloom ring with the JHC engraved on the inner band!

Raining Fish

When a cloudburst drenched the tee boxes of the Salisbury Golf Club in Wiltshire, England, it dumped more than rain. Bouncing off the closely cropped grass were koi and goldfish. Carl Horrax, manager of the old course, at first thought it was a gag until he saw the amount of fish pouring down from the sky. Course member Michael Cartwright was also flummoxed. But later that day, scientists confirmed that a waterspout had sucked the fish from a nearby pond and transferred the swirling critters to the golf course.

Big Gulp

It sounds like a great advertisement: John Bembers was fishing from a boat on Lake Michigan when he dropped his watch overboard. Three years later, Thomas Kresnak discovered the watch — still ticking! — inside the belly of a 42-pound salmon.

Frozen To The Lake

It was a typically cold winter's day in central Maine when fishing guide Greg Trefethen and a pal were drilling holes with a power auger through the thick ice on Long Pond. Rumors of a fat lake trout had both men willing to brave the freezing temperature, but as the mercury dropped, they were eager to bait their hooks, set their traps, and return to the relative comfort of their nearby ice shanty.

Trefethen, who wore prosthetic legs after losing both while stationed aboard a naval vessel that ran afoul of a particularly powerful typhoon, quickly bored their first hole, but as he began to remove the heavy auger, a fountain of icy water surged from the hole and sloshed over his prosthetic feet.

As Trefethen worked the auger free of the ice and set it on the snow, he found his feet had frozen in place. Literally. Unable to move, Trefethen called out to his friend to hurry to the shanty and retrieve a hammer and chisel. Minutes later, the men began to hammer and chip away at Trefethen's artificial toes. Half­way through the ordeal, a local ranger checking for fishing licenses spied the unusual scene and hurried to help.

"As the ranger closed in," Trefethen said, "I decided it would be funny to play a practical joke on him. These guys are usually pretty bored this time of year, so I started screaming in pain. I yelled out that I was losing my feet to frostbite. His eyes widened and he rushed up to us. That's when I unhinged my legs and dropped to the ice. He was so shocked he didn't think to ask for our fishing licenses, which was a good thing because my buddy's license was expired and he hadn't renewed it yet."

Big Blue

Surprises found in the bellies of just-caught fish:

  • A live rattlesnake was discovered inside a largemouth bass
  • A huge cobia contained an empty can of beer
  • A halibut held two sea horses
  • A black sea bass had a turtle
  • A striped bass held an entire lobster

The largest fish ever caught stand-up style was pulled in by Tracy Melton of Los Alamitos, California. The blue marlin was hooked off Madeira, Portugal, and weighed an astounding 1,083 pounds.

Reeling In The Dough

The Maryland State Department of Natural Resources planted tracking devices into as many as 3,000 wild largemouth bass in an attempt to follow their migratory and growth patterns. As the years went by, authorities began tracking the fish to a private fish farm. Confused and curious, officials soon discovered that the owner of the farm was buying the illegally captured bass from poachers, then shipping them to restaurants around the country and to markets in Asia. By the time the illegal trade was halted, the owner had reportedly made more than $150,000 in profit. He was charged with trafficking in the interstate sale of a protected species and faced more than five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  

Photo of Shaun Morey

These amusing stories have been excerpted from Incredible — and True! — Fishing Stories by Shaun Morey (Workman). Copyright© 2014. Available directly from Workman Publishing.

— Published: April/May 2015


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