The Crucifix Catfish - A legend from some old Destin fishermen

LAURA HALL | Under the Radar
This fish bone is considered a good luck charm for some old-timer fishermen.

While crabbing with Trey Nick in Choctawhatchee Bay, an unusual bone was discovered entangled in the wire of the crab trap. Realizing it was something I had never seen, Nick proceeded to tell me a legend he had heard from some of the older fishermen around the Destin area. 

“It’s good luck if you have one of these,” he said. “It comes from the Hardhead catfish and shows an arrangement of bones that resemble a crucifixion.  When shaken, a sound like dice being thrown is often heard and many say it’s the sound of the Roman soldiers gambling for Christ’s garments.”

We all love the stories of the old timers and this is an interesting one to pass down to our children and grandchildren. 

I did some research on the “dice” and found they are actually otoliths. The fish that posses these are born with these hard “ear stones” and they will be identical.  They enlarge as layers of calcium carbonate build up around them as the fish ages.  They are white, hard as rocks and as smooth as glass on the rounded surface. 

Marine biologists often cut into the stomach of a dead shark and examine these hard stones that tell them what the shark has been feeding on.  Different fish have a different size and shape of otoliths and the biologist can also determine the age of the fish when it was eaten. Tells them a lot about what is going on in our oceans.

There are so many tales of wonder from the ocean and this is just one more of them. Now when you find one of these on the beach, you will know the rest of the story......