Gone Fishing: A Fisherman Notices Something Odd Inside A Catfish’s Mouth
It’s an impressive feat for any fisherman to successfully capture a catfish. This particular catfish, though, was unlike any other, and this fisherman would find that out–and much more.
And so, what was supposed to be the achievement of a lifetime, turned out to also be something quite peculiar and menacing.
Catch of a Lifetime
With a loud thud, the enormous animal dropped onto the deck. The little boat swayed and rocked under its weight.
For this fisherman, it was definitely the largest catch of his life. As he took in the humongous catfish, he wholeheartedly believed the catch was worth the risk. He enjoyed a quick moment of pride before noticing something horrific inside the fish’s mouth. Suddenly, everything made sense–this was no ordinary catfish.
Who Is Eugene Cronley?
Eugene Cronley–the main man in this story–is an aficionado fisherman hailing from Brandon, Mississippi. Fishing had always played a part in his life, but after retirement, he got into it more by devoting himself to catching a specific type of fish.
Yes, he thoroughly enjoyed catching the types of fish he himself could cook and sometimes sell to people or restaurants in the area—still, something about hooking a catfish was even more appealing to him.
Why Catch a Catfish?
Catfish aren’t the money-makers of the fishing world. When they are younger and smaller, they cost around three dollars per pound.
As catfish grow, a lot of things happen. They lose their delicious flavor, while their flesh becomes super fatty. They also tend to absorb chemicals from their natural habitat that are unsafe for people to eat. But even so, catfish have grown to present a unique obstacle–making them a goal to catch for many recreational fishermen.
What Do Catfish Eat?
Don’t worry – the main goal of the catfish isn’t to hunt humans. However, due to the variety of catfish species, they have a range of dietary needs.
Some are mostly carnivores and consume animals, while others have an omnivore diet and eat animals and plants. They’re not too picky about what they can eat. Catfish use their barbels to feel for tasty prey like mammals, insects, fish, frogs, and crabs.
Some Interesting Catfish Facts
The name “catfish” refers to the long barbels (feelers) around the mouth which resemble cat whiskers. Catfishes have at least one pair of feelers: on the upper jaw, a pair on the snout, and more pairs on the chin.
Many catfishes have spines in front of the dorsal and pectoral fins, which can be quite deadly. The spines are associated with venom glands and can cause painful injuries. Catfish don’t have scales but are either bare or armored with bony plates.
They Have a Body That Can Taste
Those cat-like whiskers have another purpose – although they’re located on the mouth, 2,000-4,000 tastebuds on the catfish extend all over the body. Compared to smaller ones, larger catfish can have up to 175,000 taste buds on their whiskers.
The tiny taste buds double as sensory organs, and that’s a lot of flavor. The whiskers, or the barbels, allow a catfish to detect nearby food and pinpoint their next meal.
The Environments They Inhabit
Catfishes comprise nearly 3,000 species placed in around 35 families. Most of the species live in freshwater, although some are marine. Nearly worldwide in distribution, freshwater catfishes live in a multitude of habitats that range from slow or stagnant waters to rapid mountain streams. Marine catfish, on the other hand, reside in the shore waters of the tropics.
Generally, catfishes are bottom dwellers and are more active in the daytime. They are also scavengers, feeding on almost any animal or vegetable matter.
They Don’t Need Sight to Hunt
Although they have functioning vision, their impressive number of tastebuds allows the catfish to find its prey, even in the dark. Therefore, the murky and sediment-filled waters that they live in aren’t an obstacle for these animals.
Who needs visual cues when you can detect the smallest amounts of food without using your eyes? That said, a catfish with poorly functioning taste buds won’t find its food easily.
Catfish are very unique creatures and have smooth skin. They have a keen sense of smell which assists them to hunt in muddy waters and possess highly developed sensory abilities. Remarkably, these abilities help them track the trail of their prey and attack them from behind.
In terms of size, they range from 4-5 centimeters to 15 feet in length. They also come in a variety of colors, but most of them are usually displayed in muted and dull tones.
A Catfish That Walks
As if the catfish wasn’t already terrifying enough, there’s one variety that can actually walk a short distance if it needs to access a different body of water. Although it doesn’t have legs, it has front fins that can complete the same function.
Picturing a walking fish? It makes more of a wiggling, snake-like movement to relocate. This freshwater, air-breathing catfish hails from Southeast Asia and is safe to eat.
They Can Lay Up To 50,000 Eggs
Egg-laying is how catfish reproduce. Before spawning, the female catfish lay their eggs in nests in rocks, logs, or river beds that are built by the males. Based on their body size, females produce eggs. Sometimes, they can produce anywhere between 3,000 and 50,000 eggs.
In order to protect their eggs from any threats, the parents will cover them in bubbles produced by them. After the eggs hatch, the males watch over them for a week until they are mature enough to leave and begin their independent life.
A Catfish Air Force Base Takeover
In Florida, a whopping 3,000 channel catfish were released into Lewin Lake at the MacDill Air Force Base. This was done to prevent aquatic vegetation from overgrowing and to balance the ecosystem further, but certainly must have been a sight to behold.
The release of these fish also offered some more opportunities for local fishers. This specific Air Force Base is known for populating saltwater and freshwater bodies, providing fishing opportunities.
The Catfish Challenge
Catfish are widely regarded as one of the most challenging fish to capture. Enormous, heavy, fierce, and prone to aggression when threatened–all contribute to the dangers of trying to catch one.
However, that doesn’t scare pro-fishermen; it only excites them. Many make it their aim to catch the largest, heaviest, and meanest catfish they can. It often becomes a life-long challenge for them and an opportunity to showcase their capabilities.
Catfish are a peculiar and sometimes dangerous breed of fish. With prickly spines and stingers set on their fins, both on top and on the underside of their bodies, it’s no wonder that one has to be careful when dealing with catfish.
Their spines and stingers are sometimes charged with a certain poison. Fishermen commonly get stung by them–causing irritating side effects like rashes, infections, and long-lasting skin damage. But that’s not all.
Deadly and Dangerous
Trying to dominate this ferocious beast can be a danger for those who try it. Aside from its already terrifying poison, the catfish has other traits that make it a deadly fish to try and catch.
If the catfish is too big, too strong, or too heavy, it can drag an unlucky fisherman into the waters. Some who attempt to catch one come out badly injured, while other poor souls even become casualties of their catch.
According to an article from 2000 in the London Daily Express newspaper, a gigantic catfish pulled an Austrian fisher into a lake, ultimately killing him. The man was named Anto Schwarz.
Though he attempted to hold onto his rod, the force of the fish pulled him off balance, dragging him into the lake. Tangled in his line, Schwarz didn’t know how to swim and ended up drowning.
Aggressive in and Out of the Water
Setting out to catch a catfish is not a one-person job. With no one to help in case of an enormous catch, the fisherman is at considerable risk of getting dragged down. Sometimes, there is even a possibility of drowning.
Eugene Cronley was a quiet man who liked and chose to pursue his catfishing hobby alone. But on that fateful day, he would regret being alone.
Although many people like Eugene catch catfish on a boat using bait, noodling is when you’re brave enough to catch a catfish with your bare hands or feet. Although this can be dangerous, many noodlers often work in pairs to minimize risk.
Although it’s been done before, it is not recommended because it can expose you to other menacing creatures lurking beneath the water, like snapping turtles, alligators, and more.
Eugene Faced a Deadly Beast
Eugene never had a problem catching catfish. He knew the waters of the Mississippi like the back of his hand. He could go around it blindfolded and still know exactly where he was. And even though there were wild alligators and huge turtles around, he was never afraid.
When facing the humongous catfish that would go on to become the catch of his life, he would realize he had made a big mistake–he should never have gone into the waters alone.
The Waiting Game
Eugene spent a long time waiting for the catfish that would test his fishing abilities. He had already been calmly cruising around the Mississippi river in his little boat for two hours and counting.
So far, he had caught a trout–a great catch. Still, it wasn’t the catch that he wanted. However, there are times when you need to be careful what you wish for–and this was one of those times.
After hours of waiting, he felt that a large fish had taken the bait. His entire boat shook. With the way the boat was moving, it looked to be a strong and heavy fish.
Tensing his muscles, Eugene pulled the rod with all his might–anything to get the beast out of the water. It took him almost an hour, but he finally got the fish onto his boat. But then, he saw something strange.
As terrifying as noodling sounds, some people are downright obsessed by it. A man named Don Brewer caught a 60.6-pound flathead catfish, beating competitors and winning the “Big Fish’ award at the 2006 Okie Noodling Championship.
Brewer even has a tattoo on his shoulder depicting a catfish chewing on a severed human arm with the text “Bite Me” underneath. His wife bought the tattoo as a Valentine’s Day gift.
Look in the Mouth
Besides Eugene’s hook, there was something else inside the catfish’s mouth, though he could not identify what it was since the fish itself was still alive, keeping its mouth half-closed.
With great care, Eugene attempted to open the catfish’s mouth. He grabbed its head to avoid getting bitten and pried it open. When he saw what was inside the catfish’s mouth, he was utterly baffled.
A Foot and…Nothing Else
Surprisingly, the catfish had an entire alligator foot in its mouth–with the claws and everything, too! The foot’s wound looked fresh, and Eugene concluded it had recently been ripped off.
Maybe the catfish found it in the river and mistook it for a snack? Probably. However, Eugene couldn’t shake his suspicion that the catfish was the culprit. Could it be possible? A catfish overpowering an alligator, biting off its entire foot?
It didn’t seem very likely that a catfish could do that, but who knows? Eugene had never seen such a big, strong catfish in his life. He had almost been dragged down into the water by it himself.
The catfish certainly didn’t look like anything you’d find in the rivers of Mississippi; it looked more like something from a sci-fi movie. And when he brought it to the attention of the local authorities, he was in for another huge surprise.
What a Record
The catfish weighed almost 60 kilograms, or 131 pounds, to be exact. It reached a whopping 16.6 inches in length and 41 inches in circumference, or 1.4 and 1.04 meters, respectively. All these measurements proved that Eugene had set the world record for catching the biggest catfish ever!
Eugene felt ecstatic. As a long-time fisherman, it would be his life’s most outstanding fishing achievement–and it certainly didn’t come easy.
The Largest Catfish Ever
A mysterious breed known as the Mekong Giant Catfish wins the award of largest catfish species. Native to the Mekong River in Thailand, they weigh hundreds of pounds, and the largest one clocked in at 646 pounds. For perspective, that’s as much as some medium dolphins weigh.
Unfortunately, the Mekong has been faced with overfishing and is a threatened species that’s close to extinction. Hence, regulation in Mekong is underway.
A Proud Catch
Following his fantastic catch was an interview with the media. Cronley explained, “We had to untie the boat and float down the river.”
“I couldn’t move him. I’d pull on him and take in a foot of line; then he’d pull and take ten feet.” He continued, “It is truly a fish of a lifetime.” Eugene deserved to be proud, but something bothered him–was the catfish strong enough to rip off an alligator’s foot?
Flaunting His Catch
Eugene wasn’t finished showing off just yet. After going back to the dock, other fishermen noticed his huge haul. Everyone praised him for the catch. He placed the catfish in a cooler box before loading it onto his truck.
As he drove home, he listened to the radio like any other day. However, he didn’t know just how much attention he drew to himself, especially when an uninvited guest would show up at his home the next day.
Celebrating the Catch
After getting home with his prized catch, Eugene Cronley was just beginning his celebrations. After all, it wasn’t every day that he set a new world record. He gutted the fish carefully and put it in his refrigerator. He was eager to continue celebrating by cooking it the next day.
That night, he dreamed of enjoying the catfish for dinner. He lay peacefully, not knowing the surprise he would receive at his front door in the morning.
A Visitor in the Morning
Eugene started the next day like he usually would. A cup of coffee and some quiet time seemed perfect. But not even ten minutes later, someone knocked on his door.
At ten in the morning, he wasn’t sure who would be visiting him. He got up from his chair and walked to the door to open it. And when he did, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Eugene opened his front door to a man in uniform, just standing there. He wasn’t a cop, but something about him shouted authority. With a confused expression, Eugene asked, “Can I help you?”
The man at the door spoke. “Good morning, Sir.” He explained he was there to look into a potential poaching case that sources claimed may have happened yesterday afternoon. Now, Eugene was even more confused. Poaching? Yesterday afternoon? Where was all this going?
The Mississippi Wildlife Federation
He informed Eugene he was a representative of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, whose job is to protect and conserve nature against any threat–including poaching. “You were out fishing yesterday, weren’t you?” he asked.
All Eugene could do was nod. Did this have something to do with the catfish? Was it an uncommon species? Is that why it was so big? Am I in trouble? His mind was reeling. He had no idea what the man was about to say.
An Incident in the River
“There was a possible incident yesterday on the waters of the Mississippi.” The man had talked to some fishermen, and they had a lot to say about Eugene bragging about his impressive catch. “We just wanna make sure you didn’t do anything illegal,” the man remarked.
He started to ask Eugene more intrusive questions about the day before. Why was he so interested, though? And what did it mean for Eugene and his catch?
Regretting the Catch
Eugene’s heart rate was starting to go up. He knew this was no random visit, and these were not random questions. Eugene had the impression that the man was persuading him to admit to something he hadn’t done.
And it worried him greatly. Eugene would never do something wrong or illegal on purpose. He started to regret ever seeing and catching the humongous catfish from the day before.
After that worrying line of questioning, the man introduced himself–Hank Arlington. Closely working with the Mississippi Wildlife Foundation, he was passionate about any and all animals. He never wished harm to any of the wildlife in the area because he cared for them so much.
When he heard about the possibility of a poaching incident, he sought to pursue an investigation into it relentlessly–this could mean trouble for Eugene.
Is It the Catfish?
Eugene’s mind was now racing with endless thoughts. As Arlington explained what was happening, Eugene just stood there. He reflected on his actions the day before–from going out onto the river to going home with his world-record catch.
Because, surely, the man must have been talking about the catfish. Right? No other animal was involved unless you counted the trout he caught earlier. However, he had no idea what the man’s true intentions were.
Arlington continued, “Sir, what were you doing yesterday when you went out to the lake? Did you catch anything?”
Eugene felt like he couldn’t speak. This was it–he had to think fast to get out of this problem. But he knew he had to be honest. Eugene then decided it would be best for everyone to tell Arlington everything. Maybe then, he would get a lighter sentence.
This Is the Truth
Eugene paused for a moment before spilling everything. He shared how much he enjoyed going out on the water as a fisherman, always trying to find the best catch.
Yet, he made it clear that he would never attempt to poach any wildlife. And that, as far as he knew, catfish weren’t included on any endangered or conservation list, so it was perfectly legal to capture them. That’s when Arlington confusedly raised his eyebrows.
How Eugene Did It
With an indecipherable look on his face, Arlington asked, “What catfish?”
Eugene explained that he had made a huge catch that he was proud of on the previous day. He went over everything–how he caught it, its weight, size, and length, and anything else he remembered. But while Eugene was explaining, he failed to recall one tiny detail. It was this detail that would make or break it for him.
It’s… Not the Catfish?
The catfish didn’t even seem to interest Arlington remotely. He explained that the potential poaching situation he was looking into had nothing to do with any catfish.
Instead, it was an alligator. Right then and there, Eugene should have made the connection. But, instead, he did not put it together that his catfish had played a part in the poaching. Once Arlington found out, things could take a turn for the worse.
The Foot Strikes Again
Arlington explained further that an alligator was found in the lake that appeared to have had his foot chopped off. The alligator was safe now in their custody, but he wanted to make sure that the harm done to him wasn’t intentional.
It all clicked for Eugene. He completely forgot the strangest detail about the catfish, the detail he discovered when he pried the fish’s mouth open. He quickly explained to Arlington that the catfish was the reason for the missing alligator foot.
The Truth Sets Him Free
Arlington listened closely to Eugene’s explanation. Then, with a nod that showed his satisfaction with the description, he thanked Eugene for his complete honesty. After that, he made his way to his car and drove off.
Eugene let out a sigh of relief, feeling all the worry and anxiety melt away. Now that he was absolutely sure he had done nothing wrong, he could look forward to enjoying his record-breaking catfish.
What Else Has Been Found In A Catfish’s Mouth?
Maybe you’d be surprised, but finding an alligator’s foot inside a catfish’s mouth is definitely not the weirdest thing they’ve gulped down. Catfish are known to consume almost anything underwater and people have stories to share about their wild experiences, as well as the bizarre finds.
There’s been snakes, bears, gophers, and styrofoam cups discovered in catfish, among lots of other items. Here are some of those crazy things that have been found inside a catfish’s mouth.
Dentures And Wrenches
An Arkansas catfish angler, James Price, accidentally dropped his dentures into Bull Shoals Lake while he was fishing. He never thought he’d see his chompers again, but 10 days later, he caught a 20-pound Bull Shoals catfish that had swallowed one of his dental plates. This crazy find was put into a 1951 Ripley’s Believe It or Not column.
Another story is from an anonymous poster on the Florida Sportsman fishing forum online. He shared that while he was working on a dock, he dropped his dad’s brand-new wrench into the lake. His friend had a huge, strong magnet that they tied to a string. In an attempt to pick up the wrench, they found that a 5-pound catfish had eaten it.
Coins And Jewelry
The next weird account dates all the way back to 1847 in a Scientific American report. At a Cincinnati market, a catfish was purchased, and inside its stomach was a silver thimble, a gold ring, and a counterfeit dime. They were all tied up in a rag.
Another account took place on May 18, 1894, in The Manitoba Morning Free Press in Winnipeg. Douglass Smith caught a 140-pound Kansas catfish with a tightly corked, small bottle inside of it.
Catfish have been alleged to eat humans. The gigantic Goonch catfish of India has been recorded feeding on human remains from funeral pyres and was even blamed for the deaths of several human swimmers. Thus, it’s believed this is how these catfish developed a taste for flesh.
Despite this claim, it’s never been proven conclusively. Apparently, the Goonch catfish was thought to be responsible for the death of a 17-year-old Nepalese boy. In April 1988, a Goonch attacked the boy as he was cooling off in an Indian river.
Lots Of Other Random Things
More fishers who have caught catfish continue to find odd contents in their stomachs. One user on the CatFish1 online forum shared that they found sticks, small rocks, french fries, a type of animal fur, and cigarette butts.
In addition to the things listed above, soap, bubblegum, marshmallows, and raisins were also some of the things found inside a catfish. These fish will pretty much eat anything that seems like food…even other catfish!
Catfish Are Cannibals
Many might not know that catfish commonly eat other catfish. They have no regard for their kind and don’t mind cannibalizing. Therefore, it’s fairly surprising that a creature perceived as innocent is capable of such cruelty.
Catfish aren’t picky eaters and possess extraordinary eating habits. When catfish haven’t been separated accordingly and are left together for a long period, they will likely eat one another as a resort. Furthermore, stress caused by overpopulation and environmental factors will make catfish feast on their kin.
There are obviously other animals that eat catfish, just like snakes. In this story, a Houston man reeled in a Channel Catfish that was halfway through being eaten by a snake. Can you even imagine that?
Impressively, the man managed to release the fish and the snake back into the wild. He let nature do its thing. It’s not rare to lose a fish to another predator – after all, that’s what happens in the real world.
It’s not a total rarity for anglers to have a friend of a friend whose uncle once caught a wild mutant fish. Most of the time, it’s just a tall tale passed down from fishermen through generations. But, once in a while, anglers will stumble across catches that are once-in-a-lifetime.
There are some unicorns out in the sea (and cyclops). It was actually caught by a charter boat in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Everybody thought the one-eyed albino shark was a hoax, but it was confirmed to be a true mutant.
A Fish Flew Onto A Boat
While deep-water fishing, you probably only think that you’re safe on the surface. Wrong! Fishing the top water is actually scarier. Yeah, this fish flew out of the water onto an angler’s boat.
The main culprit here is a Barracuda, a fish that isn’t the most pleasant thing to look at. They are notorious for snatching chunks out of your catch as you try to reel it aboard. Sometimes, they set their sights a bit higher and launch themselves right onto the boat.
Alligator-catfish Hybrids Have Become A Thing
Though it’s not directly related to the alligator foot in this catfish’s mouth, many farm-raised catfish are injected with alligator DNA. This makes the catfish more resistant to disease, so you don’t have to worry about some monstrous alligator catfish hybrid taking over the world.
Instead, the move can make fish farming more environmentally conscious while decreasing waste and resources needed. Apparently, they won’t taste any different from your average catfish.
An Enormous Eyeball
The sheer thought of some gigantic sea monster waiting for you below the ocean’s depths will surely scare the pants off you. So, when an enormous eyeball finds its way onto land, you’re probably left wondering how exactly this happened!
As a Florida man was strolling on Pompano Beach, he discovered a single eyeball in the sand. We wonder what mysterious creature this eyeball came from? Maybe it was the sole remant of something a catfish got a hold of?
A Live Grenade
While we’ve mainly discussed the things that catfish end up eating and other insane things discovered while fishing, discovering an actual grenade is a whole other story. Indiana is where a live grenade was fished out of a local river.
It remains a mystery how the grenade ended up in the Little Calumet River, or where it even came from. Actually, finding explosives and guns in rivers and lakes is pretty common, and are discovered by people while magnet fishing.