RE: NANFA-- Fish Folklore

Hoover, Jan J ERDC-EL-MS (
Wed, 7 Nov 2001 10:35:05 -0600

>>> There are lots of sources for plant, reptile, mammal, etc. folklore but
I don't know of any sources of fish lore. Does anyone know of any books out
there? Or even better for me, send your favorite fish-related myths, tales
and assorted other lore to me or to the list. <<<

Rob -

Take a look at this book:

Lund, J. 1995. Flatheads and spooneys - fishing for a living in the Ohio
River Valley. University Press of Kentucky, 209 pp.

Lund is a folklorist (although folklore is only a small portion of the
text). His book lists unusual objects eaten by large catfish and he reports
legends of maneaters. He also notes some undescribed varieties of catfishes
seen only by commercial fisherman, the inedibility of paddlefish, the
luckiness of "otoliths," and the inadvisability of eating bowfin ("Children
were taught at their mothers' knees that if they would keep their good names
and honored places in society, they must not eat the dogfish!" - G.W. Miles,

I believe that Bil Gilbert's article on paddlefish in Audobon reports
legends of giant maneating paddlefish.

Because the skull of the marine catfish (Arius) is shaped somewhat like a
crucifix, it has been associated with religious beliefs (there are a lot of
postcards that describe the legend of the "crucifx fish" - I do not have one
closeby to refer to now but they should be readily obtainable at any
oceanside souvenir stand).

Lastly (for now), I remember reading a long time ago (in a really old book)
that catfish could be used to predict the severity of a coming winter.
Thick skin on the belly indicated a harsh winter, thin skin a mild winter.
Unfortunately, I do not rmember the book in which I read this. If I had to
make a wild guess, I would say "Walden" by Thoreau. Remember, its a wild

This is an excellent idea - I hope you get a lot of input.

- Jan

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