Fishermen's wild find inside huge catch: 'Bitten off more than it could chew'

The father and son had never seen anything like it before.

Will Kitching holding the fish (left) and holding the fish's mouth with the crab in it (right).
The fishermen were shocked to find out what had caused the salmon to die. Source: Facebook

Two Aussie fishermen got the shock of their lives when they opened a salmon's mouth to discover another creature inside it. Lodged through the fish’s body was an entire sand crab, with its pincers piercing through the salmon’s skin.

“Fish are known to eat much smaller crabs, however, we’d never seen something like this,” Will Kitching told Yahoo News Australia. “The threadfin has bitten off more than it could chew, literally!”

Kitching, 24, and his father had been out fishing, and were trying to get a bite, when they spotted “something bit floating down the rider with the tide”. As they got closer, they realised that it was a huge Threadfin salmon “well over a metre long”.

“We started the motor to go over and see if the fish was still alive,” he said. “At first, we thought it may have been a fish that another fisherman had caught and tried to release unsuccessfully.

“But when we got closer to the fish, we realised that it was dead. However, something was hanging out of the fish’s mouth, which had us very intrigued. So we scooped the fish up in our net to find a whole sand crab stuck in its mouth!”

In a video of the incident, Kitching can be seen holding the fish with the crab poking out of its mouth, as the pair explain that the crab would have caused the salmon to choke to death. Reaching into the fish’s mouth, the Kitching’s dad pulls out the crustacean, before throwing the salmon back into the water.

Both Kitching and his dad believe that the fish, which lived in “muddy, dirty water with low visibility” in the Port of Brisbane, didn’t necessarily mean to eat such a big crab.

“They are well-known for eating prawns and smaller fish, and they feed by opening up their huge bucket-like mouth and sucking their prey straight in,” he said. “They are also known to have quite poor eyesight, and mainly feed through feeling in front of their face with their long whiskers.

“This fish was probably feeling along the bottom of the river with its whiskers, felt some movement in front of its face and sucked in the crab, which got stuck in its soft mouth. The spikes from the crab’s hard shell had lodged into either side of the fish’s soft mouth, meaning it was probably struggling to get water through its gills and definitely wouldn’t have been able to eat it.”

Unfortunately, by the time the fishermen got to the predator and its prey, they were actually both dead. The incident had taken place a few days before they found them, Kitching said and they were already starting to rot in the water. “So we couldn’t even take the filets off it for dinner!

“It was sad to see this one die, however, it was of natural causes and definitely an interesting insight into what goes on below the surface.”

Will Kitching holding another fish on a boat.
Will Kitching, 24, is a keen fisherman and said he'd never seen anything like it before. Source: Facebook

Daryl McPhee, an Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Bond University, said he hadn’t heard of this incident happening much.

“It’s certainly rare for a fish to choke on its prey,” he told Yahoo News Australia. “But it’s not unheard of."

“Some fish, like pets and the occasional person, have eyes too big for their stomach. And in this case, it was a fish species that does eat crabs, prawns and other large things with its bucket mouth, but it certainly bit off more than it could chew in terms of eating that sand crab.

“It was just too big for its boots and the crab’s just wedged itself in.”

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.