Strangest things caught while fishing

Strangest things caught while fishing

October 2023

The almighty ocean is home to a mysterious collection of things. Every now and then something is hauled up from its depths that causes a double take and even more intense scrutiny, if not scepticism. Articles have been written over the years, documenting strange fishing finds all over the world. Some are dedicated to size, some to weird appearance, some simply to the nature of the discovery - not sea life.

One Mexican story involves a discovery off the coast of La Paz, back in 2011, when a shark foetus pup, dubbed “cyclops shark” was found within a pregnant, beached bull. The one-eyed baby looked so odd that photos of it were questioned. Scientists attribute it to a congenital malformation.

There were a few Doubting Thomas’s around a few years later too when a huge mantra ray was caught off the coast of Caleta la Cruz, Peru. It was so enormous that it initially sparked “doctored picture” murmurs online. However, scientists confirmed it was a 1000 Kilogram female measuring somewhere between 5 and 7 meters.

Also colossal was the squid sighted by fisherman looking for Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea. Sure, they reeled in a toothfish, but it was being grasped by something much bigger. Colossal squid are rarely seen - alive or otherwise. With eyes the size of dinner plates and arms the width of tractor tires, these mysterious creatures usually lurk in the depths of the sea, far from human eyes. This one weighed almost 500 Kilograms.

Roman Fedortsov knows better than most that sea creatures come in all shapes and sizes.This Russian fisherman has made it his mission to find as many weird and wonderful sea creatures as possible, and a frilled shark, discovered in 2016 fit the bill. He noted it looked prehistoric and its head looked like a fossil.

Some finds retain their air of mystery, and the giant eyeball found on a Florida beach is one such thing.  Marine biologists believed it belonged to a squid, but this was ruled out when bones were found around the eye’s tissue. To this day, no one’s quite sure what it used to be attached to.

Giant eyeball found on a Florida beach
Giant eyeball found on a Florida beach
Frilled Shark
Frilled shark discovered in 2016

Extremely rare finds also include a two-headed porpoise found in 2017; a two-headed turtle found in 2019; and then a chimera lobster - described as a one in 50 million find.

New Zealand gets a mention in the weird and wonderful fishing find annals too. That’s thanks to a then 14-year-old boy named Marco Salewsky who caught a creature he later discovered was a snake-eel. These are rarely caught by anglers as they live so far beneath the surface. A flabby whalefish, a slickhead, and a white rattail are among other freakish finds hauled up during New Zealand deep-sea expeditions in the last decade.

Also causing a double-take and not too far from our shores, was the discovery in South Australian waters of a faceless fish. This was in 2017 - before that, one hadn’t been spotted for around a century. FYI, it has a mouth, but it’s on the bottom of its head, which makes it look as though it doesn’t have a face at all.

Now what are the chances of this? A group of three friends went fishing off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, to help one of the friends (Eric Bartos) take his mind off his troubled marriage. Bartos caught a huge sailfish, and on a whim decided to slip his wedding ring onto its bill and then threw it back in. Three years later, the same three friends were out in the same area, when again Bartos caught a sailfish. It was the same one he’d slipped his wedding ring on. The ring perhaps had more stickability than his marriage?

Those are but some of the fishy (but true) tales. Sticking with fishermen but moving on from fish to some gruesome tales with a human connection… there was once a fisherman whose  initial delight over his catch of the day (he’d netted thousands of fish) turned to terror, when among them he found a human skull. Think that’s bad? What about the fisherman, working off the Siberian coast, who discovered a bag containing no less than 54 severed hands. Of course we want to know more about this! The hands allegedly came from a local forensics lab, where they were kept as a form of identification and then improperly disposed.

To end this weird and wonderful account now with something that fishermen can only hope to find in their catch… whale vomit, which may well look like a rock. In 2016 three fishermen found a total of 80 Kilograms worth of this whale vomit, and it was estimated they could fetch as much as $3 million for their catch because whale vomit is used in making some fragrances.