Fuck Fish

… in which Mr. John tells the whole story of Adaptation’s “Fuck Fish” scene

One of the most asked questions about “the movie” is the “Fuck Fish” scene. It’s been a band name, a song, several memes, and it is a long-ass story and not the brief scene you get in the movie.

The clip from Adaptation

“Done with Fish”

The whole story

When I was 21ish and at the tail end of “The Rough Patch” (more about that later). I was looking for something wholesome to fill my hours, after bouncing around a few things that didn’t work out, I landed on marine fish collecting. Why? Well, my love of all things aquatic started in my childhood, and living on the coast in South Florida, I spent a ton of my youth enjoying the beach, fishing, boating, and the sea. My folks had a great love of aquariums and passed that on to me. It seemed a perfect fit.

The library saves the day

Way back then, we didn’t have the luxury of the interwebs, so I spent my time in the Library studying and learning. I stumbled across this book (see below), which turned out to be perfect. This man, Bob Straughan, outlined everything needed to start a fish collecting venture. Still, flush with cash from “The Rough Patch,” I bought everything I needed and, pockets lighter, I went out to one of the spots mentioned in the book, netted up some fish, and had a grand old-time.

An obsession begins

The Marine Collectors Guide
The Marine Collectors Guide

Armed with a few buckets of fish, I dropped into one of the local pet shops and walked out with about a hundred bucks and the promise that they would buy anything I brought them. I had found my thing. Clean, wholesome, adventurous, and decent money to boot. That I was getting carved and golden brown was a nice bonus too.

I spent months diving. Always alone and with nothing but a mask, fins, and snorkel. Yes, it was dangerous, but to me, that was a large part of the attraction. I was hurt regularly. Waves crashing me into barnacle-covered rocks, and if something could sting me, it would. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat on Fire Coral. One day while collecting Sea Horses, I stepped on a stingray. I still carry the scar that took 20 stitches to close. Generally, though, if I saw something like a shark or barracuda, I would leave it be, and it would return the favor.

As my “career” continued, I bought a fish tank after a fish tank to store my stock, and business was booming. Things were great.

Darkness falls. Bad things happen

Patch Reef in the early ’80s

Success breeds arrogance

With each victory, I took more and more risks. Someone told me of a plateau about fifty feet wide that was covered with stunning patch reefs, caves, and meadows of Seagrass. To reach it, though. I had to swim out about a quarter of a mile into the Ocean. I just had to go. When I reached the spot, below me, about twenty feet down, there was the plateau as mind-blowingly beautiful as I’d expected. Beyond it was an abyss that dropped, for all I knew, forever. There were so many fish I didn’t know where to start. By this time, I could hold my breath like 5 or 6 minutes. Usually, this was plenty of time to swim down, snag a few fish, swim back to the surface, and deposit the critters in the oversized life ring I had equipped with a diving flag and nets.

Nurse Shark Cruising and Chilling

Collecting Tropical Fish Today

Presently, what I did would not be possible. To conserve our amazing Florida coral reefs, nearly everywhere I hunted, the National Park has protected fish. This watery wonderland will be preserved for future generations (well until climate change kills the reef and drowns most of Florida). Fishing and Lobstering are permitted, but the collection of ornamental fish is strongly regulated. If you get to South Florida, carve some time out for a visit.

When I went out, I usually scouted about to make sure things were safe and look for prey. I had noticed a couple of Nurse Sharks cruising around, but they are typically harmless unless you mess with them, so I had no concerns. You will see in the photo there is an overhang/cave of sorts next to the nurse shark. I had looked into a few of these and found a gold mine of Jackknife Fish. At the time, each Jackknife Fish was a 20-dollar bill, and there was at least 50 swimming upside down in a six-by-five overhang. There was nothing else in the small cave. It was perfect.

With great excitement, I rose to the surface, gathered enough breath for a big dive, and shot back down. My gear consisted of a weight belt, a sharpened “poke stick” made of a lead pipe, my net, a mesh bag for the fish, and my wetsuit.

Gleefully, I started scooping up the fish. I knelt on the sand and instantly knew I was fucked.

Sand doesn’t move.

Jackknife Fish

What happened next was so fast and yet seemed to take an eternity. At first, I felt this incredibly painful crushing on my leg, and when I looked down, I saw a five-ish foot Nurse Shark gnawing with raspy teeth through my wet suit into my flesh. Sharks tend to spin when they are trying to kill their prey (or protect themselves), and this one was no different. It began twisting its body, alternately slamming me into the rock on the roof and the sand on the floor. I knew this was where I would die. As the cave filled with my blood and all the air I was holding in my lungs, I started beating it about the head and eyes;

Amazingly, it just let go. I had just enough peace of mind left to un-clip my weight belt and push-off the seafloor to the surface. Somehow I made it to my dive ring, paddled to the shore without a “real shark,” smelling the blood, and drove myself to the hospital. My leg looked like raw hamburger. I was battered and bruised.

Apparently, it is easy being green

Yes, it’s called a Slippery Dick. Stop giggling.
Molly Miller, the clown of the aquarium

I took several months off to heal and re-energize myself, bought all new equipment, and decided to give diving another go. Picking a particularly safe area where the worst thing that could happen is a scrape or an odd cut, I headed back out. The water was crystal clear and only five feet deep. I was after two, easy to catch, fish, the Slippery Dick and the Molly Miller, (who names these fish?!) each worth only a dollar, but money wasn’t the motive, getting my “sea balls” back was.

I poked around some (with a new and improved poke stick), caught a few fish, and then noticed a slightly larger hole and thought I could “go for it” and look about for a “real” fish.

Well, fuck me if this asshole didn’t pop out of the hole. The Green Moray can grow to six feet and weigh as much as 50 pounds. Human attacks are very uncommon, but when they happen, they can be severe.

Hi, my name is Asshole. I am a Moray Eel.

We stared each other down. I thought it was just an exciting encounter for a moment, and we would go our different ways. However, as usual, Darkness falls, etc. and it shot out of the hole, snatched my mask off, and cut the fuck out of my face. It then promptly retreated into its dastardly lair. Fucker.

Here it comes.

At this point, I hauled my ass out of the water streaming obscenities, ripped off all my gear, left it where it fell, and said: “Fuck this. Fuck the ocean. Fuck Fish. I am never diving, swimming, or anything to do with the sea.”

One of my favorite memes

For 35 or so years, I never set foot in the ocean. Well, I have gone in twice, but that is another story. I rarely eat fish. Fuck Fish.

Now, this isn’t the end of “fish” in my life; the tale will continue with “The Day I Met God,” however, that’s for another day.

Le Carnaval des Animaux’ (The Carnival of the Animals) : The Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns.

It was either this or “Under the Sea” which it too “Nemo”