One lost fish. Which one single lost fish experience haunts you the most?


Joe from PA
I’ve got one from years ago when I was a kid that I think of often. I used to spend most of my summers “down the shore” at my grandparents place in Cape May, NJ. My grandfather used to drop me off at the coast guard station on the north side of Cape May inlet and I’d hike out to the end of the jetty to fish for blues, weakfish, and the occasional striper. I loved doing that and would spend all day out there alone, several days a week. I had a game where I would try to figure out the most efficient path through the rocks so I wouldn’t waste any time getting out to the end of the jetty and the best fishing spot. There was an older gentleman that I would often see out there who was also very serious about fishing and would carry a large backpack out there that contained bags and boxes of tackle, gear and a gaff. It must have had several hundred dollars of gear in it. We became friends and would help each other gaff fish and he used to give me lures, steel leaders, etc. One day we were fishing the point during an ebb tide just before low tide and I was feeding lots of line off my spool as the tide carried my bucktail out into the rip. At one point I had to take a pee, and not wanting to waste time, I decided to set my rod down against his backpack while the tide carried out my bucktail. No sweat, just let me hop down between the rocks real quick, take a quick wiz, no fishing down time…oh crap!!! It was one of those slow motion life moments…big striper grabs bucktail, line gets caught around the gaff, surf rod catches big air, backpack and gaff with bags and boxes of big bucks stuff goes with it into the wash between the rocks at the water edge…and me scrambling to catch up with my rod as it bounces into the rocks. I managed to grab my rod and he managed to reclaim some of his gear, but the gaff was lost and we had no way to land the fish and it was to be the largest cow I had seen to that point in life. Indeed, before she was lost, I got that fish close enough to visually measure her stripes against the submerged rocks just a few feet below and out of grasp but alas a world away in the wash of the jetty. At the time I was devastated, but looking back, my only regret of loss is that man’s gear.


New Member
I, Like most of us can remember a lot of fish lost. But there is one that will stick with me. It wasn't in pristine waters, I wasn't alone, and I didn't have to hike to get there.
I was swinging a big ugly orange streamer on the kalama, at the beginner hole with about 10 other guys. shoulder to shoulder. hardly fly fishing at all.. plenty of dark slivers being hooked as well as the occasional big boot king. I did'nt really know what I was doing as it was only maybe my 6th time with a fly rod in my hand but I knew steelhead liked orange and thats what I was after. It did'nt take long before I had caught a couple ugly silvers my self as well and was starting to get bored and discouaged. when suddenly at the end of my swing, The fly got HAMMERED. it went straight up river. fast. I told everyone to look out as it I ran up after it. then it just held right in the middle of the hole. people were starting to get impatient, at this point I had figured I had just hooked one of the big ugly kings and started to put some pressure on it to get it out of everyones way. I slowly worked it down river and closer, but since the water was dirty I coulnt see it. I finally got down to where the water slowed and started to pull him toward shore. when it jumped. It jumped about 5 feet awaty from a guy up to his knees in the river. I couldnt believe it, not only was it chrome but it was a silver. a HUGE silver. it was as long as the guy was tall from where his body entered the water. mid air my line snapped back. it all happened so slow. the guy turned around and looked at me and said Holy Sh%t! that was a sliver! I couldnt say anything. that was the biggest steelhead I had ever seen then or since. I would say it was around 25lbs..
I can’t say it haunts me because I don’t regret losing this particular fish, but I do have a memorable lost fish.

A group of friends had chartered a Halibut trip out of Valdez AK. It was about 2pm and everyone else was catching halibut and ling cod and I hadn’t caught a damn thing except for this really pretty fish they call an Irish Lord (if you’re not prone to nightmares Google it). While watching my friends catch was fun (for a while) and we had agreed to split the bounty so at least I wasn’t going home empty handed I was beginning to get that skunked feeling nonetheless.

The first mate a kid about 18, which happened to be the Capt’s son came over and said "do you want to try a jig?" I said "sure I’ll try damn near anything at this point". So he rigged what appeared to be a 10 inch sinker with a single hook coming out the end and handed me the rod. I jigged it off the bottom about 3 times and boom. It felt like what I would imagine getting your jacket caught in the door of a bus would feel like as it drives off. It nearly snatched the rod out of my hand.

The first mate looked at me and saw the rod with a significant bend (and we’re not talking a 3 wt) and in his years of experience and infinite wisdom said, “That’s not a fish, you’re hung on the bottom”. I said something to the effect of “Young man you are full of shit!”. And almost as if on cue the fish took a major run to the other side of the boat. Then the game was on…I would take line and the fish would take it right back. This went on for almost 2 full hours, any doubt that this was a fish were replaced by “this might be a record halibut”.

Finally, I started to take line in and slowly something emerged from the depths; when I saw it, I honestly thought it was a great white shark. I got it alongside the boat and the first mate standing there with a harpoon tied to a bowie looked at his Dad standing there with a 22 pistol neither had a clue who should do what first. The Captain broke the stalemate with a question "do you want it?" Then it was my turn not to know what to do or say. Ultimately it was the fish that made the decision. It turned its head, the line snapped or was cut on one of those teeth and it swam back down into the depths.

It wasn’t Jaws, but a cousin, a Salmon Shark, the captain estimated it to be in the 600 lb range. I’m glad to have had the experience. I don't know how I would have answered the Captains question, but very happy with the sharks decision.

Alan Green

Spiritual and Legal Counsel to the Fishes
Boy, good thread. I don't usually chime in on these, but this one has had me thinking since it was first posted.

Like a lot of guys, I don't have any trout or steelhead or salmon that haunt me. A few that had me a little torn up at the time, sure, but none that haunt my dreams. Its mostly about being there. There is one fish though....Years ago I was fishing with my dad in Zihuatanejo. We were in a little panga, fishing live mackerel for tuna. Terrible little boat, hand tilled outboard, three legged milking stool for a fighting chair, crappy rusted Mexican Penn Senator reel on God-knows-what rod, with line that was probably last replaced in the 80's. Enjoying a Pacifico when I see something roll, looked like a Volkswagen, then the line starts screaming. At first I thought it was a marlin, it was so big, but ended up being a huge yellowfin tuna. I fought that thing standing up in the back of that rowboat with nothing but a canvas belt gimble for what seemed like a year. I think it was more like 2, 2.5 hours. Captain estimated it at close to 300 lbs. By sheer grace of God, I got it to the boat 3 times, only to have it remember it was hooked and just swim away against the drag. The last time, maybe 10 ft. away, with the captain poised ready to throw the harpoon, line goes slack and its gone. Maybe it was the epic battle, the sheer size of the fish, the physical pain it caused me, all that delicious fresh sashimi, I dunno. But that one has haunted me for a long time.

Brian White

Recovering Bugmeister
I used to live in Mendocino County, California, on a big piece of land that had Navarro River frontage. I was fishing the Navarro river with my big brother - I had to be about 7 years old. We were chucking spinners of some kind (probably Panther Martins if memory serves), hoping to catch some little fingerlings or something. Honestly I don't even know what we were expecting to catch. I had my little ultra-light Daiwa set up and I must have had the drag set kind of loose. All of a sudden something just hammered my spinner, took off and gave me an incredible jump. We later guessed it was a steelhead, but at the time I thought I had hooked a really big rainbow. It made another run, jumped twice and shook the hook. I remember getting an incredible adreline rush. To make the day more memorable, my big brother accidentally touched a cattle fence on our way back to the house. I still enjoy a laugh at his expense once in a while on that!
I fished that river constantly thereafter - never even hooked another steelhead there. I did foul an eel...Not the same.


Active Member
Would have to be when I was a kid and took off a year from college to travel the U.S.I designated 6 months to travel to the Florida keys and live/work so I could fish for bonefish.On a full moon,if it was clear out,we would fish a white sand flat where you could stalk bones cruising the water edge.It was surreal,squinting for a shadow.I hooked a 12 lb. bone in 6-8 inches of water and when he bolted my excess line got snarled in seaweed on the beach,....end of story.It was the quickest break-off ever,maybe 1 second.Huge silver ghost,he made the more common 8 lb. fish appear horizontally challenged.
Took my nephew and his 8yr old son to the upper East Fork of the Lewis last summer and they gear fished while I fly fished. His 8yr old had never seen anyone fly fish before. After a half hour or so Caden, the 8yr old put his rod up against a tree and watched me for a while. I was waiting for him, to ask me if he could try it for a while when he said"Uncle Jim how do you know when you have a fish on?" So me being, as many of you know kind of a smart ass said "well you know when you have a fish on when, then I let out a Indian war cry whoop just trying to scare him a little when just then I had a monster take! It always happens when we're not paying attention. The rod damn near ripped out of my hand. It happened so fast I didn't have time to react.It took off to the next pool down stream. By then my nephew saw what was happening and he ran up the bank, down the road and dropped down the trail so he could help. I finally had it up against the bank in the lower hole and he started to grab the fish when I said " grab him by the tail" just then he got ahold of the leader as I said "NO" it snapped. You know that sound,POW! straight to the heart. Shit I said. Now the largest steelhead on record from the State of Washington comes from my little piddly East Fork and I thought it was about the same size. As long as my arm and it had a head the size of a sharks. It was a beautiful buck, I'll bet over 17, 18#'s# . We all stood there, Caden the 8yr old was in awe, my nephew said" did you fu..kin see that!" I stood there with that good old steelhead tremble still not believing what I just saw. I've fished that river since1964 and have caught my fair share of fish there but I think that was the biggest. Now that is one I wish I would have brought to hand, I still give my nephew shit for that, and he still feels bad abouot it. I haven't taken him there since either. Wonder why?:hmmm:
I wouldn't say that it haunts me, more like a pleasant dream of something I cherish from the past. Time was many years ago (20?) up on the Babine River in BC with a bunch of fellows
from the club. Last day of the trip and we were fishing in early October. Snow was in the
forcast but had not arrived as yet. Tied on what I thought would be a tough enough leader,
and headed for the "hole".

Now the Babine was full of redds that ran abut three feet deep or more, and the bottom
was alive with sockeye. But we were in the Steelhead hole. As usual, guys were lined up
like a soup kitchen on a cold day and I was at the end of the line. My partner was fishing a
stack of branches sticking into the water. Prime steelhead location. He stepped backward
into one of the redds and almost lost his balance. This caused him to move away. So I
moved into his spot and about the fifth cast, my reel started to scream. The biggest fish I had ever hooked was on a tear with my fly in it's mouth. From my distance, I could not tell if it was a buck or a hen, but I think it was a hen. Bright as a new dime and as long as my
arm. Well, aren't they all? Anyway, he/she tail walked all along that line of fishermen for all to see and cheer, only to break me off. I was shaken. Looking back, I am glad that this
wild fish got away to spawn. Canada got some more fish, I got a great memory and we all came out ahead.

The fishing was great by the way. I would love to go back again.


Active Member
Ice fishing contest in N Wisconsin when I was 16 years old. First prize was a 14 ft Lund boat with a 15 horse motor. Minus 15 and the ice over 3 ft thick. my buddy was with me and it took us half to chop a hole in the ice so we only set up 2 tip ups. ( 3 a piece allowed)

Fishing was really slow and the biggest fish in the contest by the end of the day was a 22 inch northern pike. I am sitting with my buddy in his 1977 firebird drinking mountain doo and listening to Thin Lizzy.I think the song was Jail Break. Anyway I see the flag go up on my tip up and we both bail out of the car and start running for the tip up. my a hole friend trips me so he can get to the tip up first.
I take a header into the 2 ft of snow. I get up and run up to the hole and to see my friend fighting a nice fish on his knees. I tell my friend he had better not lose that fish because that Lund boat was mine. he finally manages to get the fish to the bottom of hole. I look down and see a20lb pike. Problem is that we chopped the hole too small and cannot get the fish up thru the hole. oh crap.

I run back to the car to get the ice chisel run back and begin to chop a bigger hole. 15 minutes later I get down thru 2 ft of ice.1 more foot to go and I can still see the big pike at the bottom of the dark hole. The pike becomes pissed at all of the chopping noise and starts thrashing around.
I've hooked and lost of lot of fish. None of them haunts me. Maybe some were larger than average fish, maybe they weren't. I don't see any reason to lose any sleep over it. Losing some of the fish I hook is just part of fishing. Maybe I'm really well adjusted. Or maybe I'm not one of those anglers who mistakenly thinks a big fish represents a phallic symbol.

Thankfully not everyone on the board is as cool as this dude. Would make for a boring thread!

For me it was a nice sized permit that blasted off for the deep and at a moment of relative slack I looked down to see my line doubled over itsefl on the reel. I show it to the guide and he just gives me the "you're f'd" look.


The Whisky Guy
My first steelhead hooked on the fly. This was about 10 years ago on the Kalama. Saw it plain as day as it slid into the hole I was working as the water was gin-clear. To say that it was a massive fish would be a gross understatement. Had to have gone low 20's. I presented a black & cerise egg-sucking bunny leech perfectly and saw it rush to take the fly. Huge boil, strong head shake, and my sink tip knot popped. Gone baby, gone. Still think about that one. Haunted, to say the least.

Just last Fall on the Deschutes (Oregon), I hooked into a steelie? (never saw it) that turned and ran for the Columbia, completely un-stoppable. Unspooled my reel until it hit my backing knot and popped my tippet knot. Never felt so helpless before fighting a fish. Still wonder how big that one would have gone.


Well-Known Member
Thankfully not everyone on the board is as cool as this dude. Would make for a boring thread!
You've got a good point. We cool dudes bore people to tears. There's nothing like facts to tone down otherwise good fish stories to the point of uninteresting and boring.

Say, did I ever tell ya' the one about that fish that fought so long and . . . oh yeah, fish don't really fight. They just struggle for their life against our hook and line . . . I'm always amused by fishermen who claim to fight fish. Fighting suggests some degree of mutual peril, and I've yet to feel slightly imperiled by any fish. Boring . . .

Fishing from the slewable ramp deck of T-AKR 298 in mid '98, at dusk. I'd tossed about 6 amber jack back in by then and was getting to the point when i'd have to go back inboard anyways ( weren't allowed there after dark for security reasons)
That last cast, hooked a good sized hamoor ( spotted grouper, persian gulf style) and was getting the long gaff ready to bring it onboard for dinner, when i saw this large dark shadow with a dinner plate sized eye cruise by me from right to left, and suddenly my fish just vanished. line popped like a 22 when it parted. no swirl, no loud splash, just gone.

to this day,absolutely no idea what took my grouper, but sometimes in dreamland, that event comes back to replay itself.