True Fishing Lies

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

Feb. 9, 2005

True Fishing Lies

A Florida fisherman who claimed he placed his gold wedding band on a sailfish’s bill before releasing it in 2002 — and then caught the same fish more than two years later with the ring still attached — passed a polygraph examination to confirm his outlandish fish tale this week. Keeping with a theme of fishing and truth, we dispel the urban legend about hallucinogenic catfish slime, as well as one about fishing worm feelings and emotions. Really. Would we lie to you?

J.R. Absher

Lord Of The Ring

On December 28, 2002, Eric Bartos was fishing with two friends off the Florida coast near Ft. Lauderdale when he caught and landed a sailfish. Bartos was in the middle of a bitter divorce at the time — so his fishing buddies suggested that he put his gold wedding ring over the bill of the fish before he released it, in an act of strength and camaraderie.

One pal, Jamie Artzt, snapped a quick photo before they released the fish.

As luck would have it, the same three anglers were together two weeks ago, competing in a sailfish tournament, when Bartos caught a sailfish with his gold band firmly attached to its bill — exactly where he placed it 25 months ago!

This time, more photograph were taken, and Bartos removed the ring, which left an indelible mark on his re-caught fish before it was released — hopefully, to be caught another time.

When he later began telling his story to others, there were many who doubted this incredible-sounding fishing tale.

“If we had kept the fish, that would have been our smoking gun, our proof. But we don’t kill the fish,” Bartos told The Miami Herald. “Hopefully, somebody will catch this one again, and they’ll see the indentation on his beak, and realize it’s the famous ring fish.”

One Truthful Fisherman

As the story of Bartos’ ring fish began circulating among the big game angling community of South Florida, many who heard about it naturally doubted the odds of such an incredible coincidence. As a result, a local radio station offered to pay for a professionally administered polygraph test, and Bartos willingly submitted.

The result? Bartos’ story is “overwhelmingly truthful,” according to polygraph examiner Doug Reno, who announced the results live Monday morning on NBC’s “Today Show.”

After writing a complete statement about the incidents leading up to his catch, Bartos was connected to the polygraph machine, which measured his respiration, blood pressure, perspiration and body movements. He was then asked if he told the truth in his statement and then whether he knowingly lied or made any misrepresentations in the statement.

“When you’re testing a specific issue, it’s accurate up to 95 percent. The test was so conclusive,” said the examiner.

Bartos, the director of preconstruction services for a Florida condominium builder, is well known in the competitive big game angling community. He said the ring is now displayed among his other fishing trophies — though he’s considering donating it to the International Game Fish Association museum in Dania Beach, Fla.

One person who never doubted Bartos’ story is his ex-wife, Susan.

“I believed it from the start,” she told reporters. “I’m really glad for him. It’s great. Maybe this is a sign of us — not to remarry or get back together — but to make peace.”

Whisker Lickin’ Good

And, now, here’s a fish tale that’s a big whopper — really.

Attention — all of you thrill-seeking college kids out there. Just for the record — there are no hallucinogenic properties contained in catfish slime.

A fishing magazine editor publicly admitted last week that he fabricated the story about catfish-licking five years ago for an annual April Fool’s special issue. And somehow, just like that battery-driven bunny, it just kept on going … and going.

“It’s scary how easy it is to start an urban legend,” says Doug Olander, editor-in-chief of Sport Fishing magazine.

According to an article appearing in last week’s Tallahassee Democrat, Olander’s April 2000 piece was so outlandish, it should have tipped off most readers.

He claimed that licking catfish slime was popular among college kids, who called themselves “slimers,” and paid as much as $200 for a fresh catch. Furthermore, catfish goo was supposed to produce a “whisker-lickin’ good” trip that would give users the sensation of being under water.

Five years later, the tale continues circulating around the Gulf Coast.

Feeling No Pain

As long as we’re on the subject of fishing, truth telling and such, here’s one story you won’t hear from the animal rights crowd.

A scientific study released by the Norwegian government this week confirmed what most anglers already know — that worms squirming on fishhooks don’t feel pain — nor do lobsters and crabs when they’re placed in boiling water.

The government in Norway funded the study on pain, discomfort and stress in invertebrates to determine if its animal protection laws were adequate. Invertebrates cover a range of creatures from insects and spiders to mollusks and crustaceans.

“The common earthworm has a very simple nervous system — it can be cut in two and continue with its business,” said Professor Wenche Farstad, who chaired the panel. “It seems to be only reflex curling when put on the hook … they might sense something, but it is not painful and does not compromise their well-being.”

Fish On!

Quote Of The Week

“Now, your average catfish is an innocuous thing: farm fed, soberly whiskered, tender as an earlobe. But inflate that fish a hundredfold — like a flea seen through a microscope — and it becomes a true American monster. When it lunges from the river bottom, opening jaws the size of dinner plates, the suction may pull in almost anything: shrimp, fish, snake, or rat, baby duck or beaver. According to one old story, when pioneer mothers did their wash by a stream, they sometimes heard a splash and a muffled yelp: where a little boy had been playing, only a few bubbles were left.”

-Burkhard Bilger

“Noodling for Flatheads,” 2000

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom ( and The Outdoor Weblog ) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

Leave a Reply

Commenting Policy - We encourage open expression of your thoughts and ideas. But there are a few rules:

No abusive comments, threats, or personal attacks. Use clean language. No discussion of illegal activity. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally hateful comments are not tolerated. Keep comments on topic. Please don't spam.

While we reserve the right to remove or modify comments at our sole discretion, the Sportsman's Guide does not bear any responsibility for user comments. The views expressed within the comment section do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of The Sportsman's Guide.