Those Fish Stories

A large fish superimposed on the picture makes it appear as if the man is catching a fish bigger than himself in this colorized photograph by John Nelson. NSHS RG3542-131-3

A large fish superimposed on the picture makes it appear as if the man is catching a fish bigger than himself in this colorized photograph by John Nelson. NSHS RG3542-131-3

Improbable fishing yarns have been around as long as fish and fishing. The Norfolk Weekly News-Journal in the summer of 1907 reported an escalating series of such tales from Verdigre, Neligh, and Valentine, Nebraska. The News-Journal said: “A few days ago a Verdigre dispatch in these columns told of a remarkable fish catch in the Verdigre creek. A small fish had been drawn out of the [water] when a very large catfish came along and swallowed the little three-pound fish and was hooked. After a struggle the monster catfish was landed. Steak from the catfish was enjoyed in a Verdigre restaurant for supper that night.” 

In this postcard version of a “fish story” an enlarged picture of a fish has been added to John Nelson’s photo to make it appear that it is about to swallow the boat. NSHS RG3542-141-4

In this postcard version of a “fish story” an enlarged picture of a fish has been added to John Nelson’s photo to make it appear that it is about to swallow the boat. NSHS RG3542-141-4

The next day Neligh topped the story. “A much bigger fish had been caught at Neligh. First a small fish was hooked. On this as bait another hit. Then came the monster third fish to swallow both the other two. A man was drawn clear across the stream in trying to land the mammoth catch. It was a fish story pure and simple. But as a fish story it was a clever yarn. And fairy tale though it was, credit must be given to Neligh for the progressive spirit which prompts men to risk their all for the sake of going on and up.”

This wasn’t the end of the story. Learn how a fish tale from Valentine subsequently attempted to top the one from Neligh in a Timeline column on the Nebraska State Historical Society website. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications

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