Every fisherman dreams of the big catch. Each one has probably even pictured himself noticing his line tugging as a huge, strong fish tries its best to detach from the trap and get away. But in the dream the fisherman will fight back, sweating as he pulls his catch closer and closer to shore.
At the end of it, he’ll have an incredible reward and endless bragging rights. He’ll definitely take a photo, too, holding up the extra-large catch to show off his fishing prowess. He might even serve up his big haul for dinner or have it mounted as a trophy to point to for the rest of his days.
For two fishing buddies in Alabama, though, the catch of their lives didn’t go quite as they likely imagined. But the reward they reeled in was still nothing short of unbelievable. After all, what they caught wasn’t even a fish at all.
It all began when avid fishermen Jason Frost and Brandon Key were watching the sun rise over the Warrior River one Saturday morning in August 2015. Only still waters and tree-lined riverbanks surrounded them that day as they cast their lines.
That serenity was soon broken, however, when the pair heard a strange noise. “We were sitting there, fishing, facing the bank,” Frost described to BuzzFeed News. “Then, behind us, we hear a splash.”
The fisherman had, of course, come up with a simple explanation for the noise before he examined it further. “I thought it was a fish jumping out of the water,” he said. But then he turned around and looked closer.
What he saw was so unexpected that he grabbed his camera and started recording. “Y’all are not going to believe what is swimming toward our boat,” he said straight into the lens. Then he panned the camera out toward the water.
But he only gave viewers a split-second to spot the creature headed straight for his vessel. It was just a white dot bobbing as it swam; it could have been anything. Fortunately, Frost could see better and knew he had to spring into action.
So he leaned down on the edge of his boat as if to show the approaching animal he meant no harm. “This ain’t real,” he said as he watched it getting closer and closer. The tiny figure was a kitten, all by itself on the Warrior River.
The man behind the lens, Frost’s fishing buddy Brandon Key, was also in disbelief. “Never in my life…” he said, trailing off as his friend reached for the kitty in the water. Then Key noticed something else rustling on the riverbank.
“Oh, there’s more, Jason!” Key said, the surprise in his voice clear. “I just saw a kitten jump on the ground.” At the same time, Frost was finally able to pull the first orange-and-white kitten onto the boat.
As the kitten shook to dry itself off, Frost surveyed the lake, looking for what his friend had seen on the riverbank. “Do you hear it? I just saw it jump off in the water,” Key said, as the first rescue kitten happily mewed.
But the second cat wasn’t immediately visible, leaving Key audibly perplexed. Frost, however, was fixated on the animal they’d already saved. He petted it as he said, “Never in my life have I seen anything like this.”
Then Key finally pinpointed the second kitten’s location. He said, “Look, it’s coming right out of the weeds right now. See it?” At that moment, another barely discernible white dot appeared on the fisherman’s footage. Frost grabbed the camera to speak directly to viewers once again. “Is this not the craziest thing y’all have ever seen?” he asked his audience.
At that point, Frost realized that the kittens had most likely been abandoned by a former owner. He said, “We’re out here trying to fish and there are cats swimming toward the boat because [someone] probably put them out here.”
The kind-hearted angler later told BuzzFeed News, “There were no houses for miles. Somebody probably dropped them off there in the middle of the night. They were so desperate they swam all the way out to us and almost jumped in the boat.”
Fortunately for the cats, they had two patient rescuers willing to take them on board that day – and their luck wouldn’t end there. Because, after giving the kittens something to quench their thirst, Frost and Key then played with the orange-and-white pair for the rest of the morning.
Frost admitted that having cats on his fishing boat drew some strange looks from their fellow fishermen. He told BuzzFeed News, “[The cats] were loving on us and people went by and thought we were these crazy people who took their cats fishing.”
But back on dry land, one family they encountered didn’t find the kittens strange at all. On the contrary, they found them adorable. Yes, the family’s two young daughters were instantly besotted with the ginger felines and asked Frost and Key if they could adopt them. The fishermen readily agreed.
So the cats were greatly rewarded for their brave attempts to be rescued on the mighty Warrior River. And their new family gave their new pets two very fitting names: Warrior and River. As Frost himself commented on the viral video, “This puts a new spin on the term catfishing.”