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Fish Tales

A largish catfish.Yes, I’ve done some stupid things, but none quite as stupid as this…

Dutch Man Swallows Live Catfish

A catfish?[1] Just how wasted was this guy? Quite wasted, of course, and under the influence of the stupid American television program Jackass[2]. What could go wrong?

Plenty. From the informative Atlantic article about the incident:

Even Steve-O [Jackass "star"] might have thought twice before swallowing a live catfish. Unlike the harmless goldfish, Corydoras aeneus, also known as the “Cory” catfish, is armored with strong, overlapping scales. And it shares a famous defense mechanism with almost all of its catfish cousins: spinelike barbs embedded within each fin. When the fish is distressed, these barbs straighten and lock into place, turning the animal from a tropical pet into a sort of aquatic shuriken [A clever type of hidden Japanese blade].

The Dutch swallower took the party to a local hospital and he survived, presumably to reexamine his life choices. His name was not released. It believe it may be Jan Zonderkop.[3]

You Learn Something New Every Day

I was unaware that–sophomoric goldfish swallowing aside–people do eat live animals. And not just probiotic yoghurt. From the Atlantic:

In [some] parts of the world, live seafood remains a delicacy rather than a crime. Korean sannakji is a specialty dish of live octopus served freshly dismembered (and still squirming) beneath a garnish of sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Odori ebi, or “dancing shrimp,” half-drowned in sake, are eaten in both Japan and Thailand. Yet many countries, including a few where these dishes have originated, have struck them from the menu over animal-cruelty concerns.


A Confession

As I wrote above, I’ve done some stupid things. I am prepared to come clean about one of the less serious of my many stupid episodes. (Sharp readers will have already uncovered a more egregious example in a footnote to this very post. Friends who can recall others are invited to keep them to themselves.)

In fact, I have swallowed a live goldfish.

This ugly and hyper-carnivorous incident occurred in the summer of 1980 (almost 39 years ago!) in–from the goldfish’s point of view–the ironically-named city of Fortuna, California.

NAVFAC Centerville Beach, circa 1982.This unfortunate event occurred while I was serving in the U. S. Navy and stationed at the small, mysterious base at Centerville Beach, just outside of The gorgeous town of Ferndale.[4]

(That is a clickable thumbnail of an aerial photo of the base taken during my time there: December 1980 through March 1983. The base itself no longer exists, and the hillside on which it sat is eroding away and falling into the Pacific.)

How and why did I swallow a live goldfish? The “how” is easy: I washed it down with a big gulp of beer, of course. The “why” is more difficult to explain, but I will try: I was cruising the midway at Fortuna’s annual carnival with my Navy buddies. I can’t recall who all were there. Tim K was there I’m sure, but there were others. Chris L? Dan E? Maybe. All I know is that at least one of my friends was tossing ping pong balls at small, single-occupancy, inhabited fish bowls. The lure? The softball-sized fish bowl and its tenant. To add just that slight extra incentive, I made an offer, “One of you bozos manage to win one, and I’ll drop it down my throat.” So of course someone did.

We weren’t there pet shopping, and I don’t think I was hungry. We were there to check out and impress the “local talent.” We were unsuccessful, of course. Hard to understand why. Could it have been my breath and/or something I ate?


  1. The catfish he swallowed was probably not the one pictured at the top of this page. [^]
  2. The nearest I’ve come to Jackass-worthy stupidity may have been when friends and I–allegedly–liberated a wheelchair from the roof of a medical supplies store (where it stood as a pathetic, rusted attention-getter, no doubt attracting a steady stream of customers). Later, we used it to improve our balance by popping and holding “wheelies” in our living room, until finally our riding it down the brick stairs from our second-storey apartment destroyed it. Again, allegedly. [^]
  3. That’s not really his name. [^]
  4. The base was not so mysterious after the father-son team of traitorous spies, the Walkers, sold its secrets to the Russians. [^]


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