Maybe not exactly, but I did have quite the encounter with a Toad Fish this past fall while visiting Jekyll Island, Georgia.
James and I decided to visit the Jekyll Island Fishing Center as it has become one of our favorite places on the island just to have some fun and mingle with some of the locals.
It was a windy day, so breezy in fact that James’ favorite hat, a Shelta hat in a nice camo pattern, blew off his head and into the Atlantic Ocean never to be seen again. We were on the cusp of Hurricane Michael making landfall in Florida, so the wind was really kicking up.
As James watched his hat drift out to sea, I felt a little tug on the end of my line. I assumed it was just the weight of my rig I was throwing on my rented fishing rod and reel combo. I reeled my line in and continued to feel the line twitch beneath my hands. Looking down from the pier, I saw what I first thought was a Flounder. I wasn’t wearing my bifocals, so I was going on color alone.
When the fish came closer to me on the pier, I realized it was definitely not a Flounder. It wasn’t a Sheepshead either. I was out of ideas. I definitely knew I was not about to touch the little beast.
I handed my line to my husband and said, “Unhook it.”
He looked at me with a little skepticism. I mean, the poor guy had just lost his lucky hat and now he had to deal with unhooking one of the most freakishly sad looking fish we had ever laid eyes on.
My husband, being mindful of the fact that this fish was sporting a set of pointy teeth, set about the task of removing the hook ever so delicately. He was careful to not allow the fish to fin him with its spiny little protrusions which it had down its back.
Soon enough, the fish was back in the salty water and back to whatever oyster bed it came off.
Being the curious type, I walked to the little bait shop at the pier and showed the workers a picture of our catch. “That’s a Toad Fish,” exclaimed one of the ladies behind the counter. “Yeah! That’s a Mother in Law fish,” said the other lady standing near the ice cream counter. “I hope you all didn’t touch it! They can be fatal! They carry bacteria on them,” said the lady who told me my beautiful fish was called a Toad. The ladies explained if you eat the Toad Fish, you could die. I smiled, assured her we let the fish go, and walked briskly out to the restroom where I proceeded to scrub up as though I were about to perform an intricate operation.
After a short walk back to the pier, I told James he needed to wash his hands and make sure he did not put his hands in his mouth. I explained about our Toad Fish possibly being the kiss of death. James washed up and we called it a day.
Turns out, the Toad Fish is pretty well known to the locals of Coastal Georgia. It’s MO is to steal your bait. It is insanely fast moving, which makes it a great candidate to pick your hook clean. What did my Toad Fish like to eat? Shrimp. Not even boiled, fried, grilled, or sautéed, just plain ole’ raw shrimp. Finicky is not a word to describe the Toad Fish.
Next time we pier fish, we plan to carry a pair of gloves. We hope we don’t run into another Toad Fish, but if we do, we will be prepared. And no, it won’t be getting any kisses.