The Twelve Days of Fishmas!

It's that time of year, folks! The air is crisp, the lights are twinkling, and merriment is at an all-time high. That can only mean we’re approaching the best holiday of the year...Fishmas! 

You’ve probably heard of an adorable, albeit slightly annoying, jingle for that other popular holiday, the 12 Days of Christmas. But maybe you weren’t aware that it was originally written for the Fishmas holiday.* (*Information not based on actual facts.)

We have a sneaking suspicion that our besties in the Migratory Bird Program lobbied hard for the Christmas version to contain SO MANY BIRDS, but we’re here to let you know that the original had not a feather in sight! With no further ado, we’re happy to present you with the REAL version of this song, the 12 Days of Fishmas!

On the first day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me a fishing license for the new year.

The song starts out strong with one of the best gifts you can give or get from the angler in your life...a fishing license! Not only do 100% of license fees go directly toward conservation and restoration, but you’re also basically single-handedly enhancing the sport of fishing today and for generations to come. You’re getting a fishing license AND an excuse to humble brag, so it’s like a 2 for 1. Check out our website for more info on how to buy a fishing license in your state!

On the second day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me two Wyoming toads.

Say hello to the cutest and grumpiest looking critter that we raise...the Wyoming toad! Speaking of humble bragging, it’s worth emphasizing the “we raise” part. The cool kids at Saratoga National Fish Hatchery are experts at breeding, raising, and reintroducing these cuties, which are considered the most endangered amphibian in North America. 🙁 It goes without saying that these toads are NOT acceptable Fishmas gifts!

On the third day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me three paddlefish.

Ah, the paddlefish! These ancient gentle giants are actually the PERFECT holiday fish because they eat much like we tend to at this time of year, wandering around with mouths wide open, ready to swallow any and all delicious morsels! They don’t have teeth, just big gills that rake through the food! Check out our paddlefish fact sheet for more info about this fascinating fish.

On the fourth day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me four brooding bass.

Did you know that male largemouth bass build elaborate nests and then entice the females to swim over to their nests to lay eggs? Once those eggs are deposited, males fertilize them and then guard the nests until the eggs hatch. But it doesn’t stop there! They continue to watch over their brood for several weeks to protect them from predators. If this sounds like your kind of thing, then your love language might just be acts of service!

On the fifth day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me five tackle boxes.

Every angler knows, it’s crucial to have the right gear and the right tackle box to store and transport it in! But what if you’re a new angler who’s just getting started, someone who only fishes occasionally, or maybe don’t have the extra cash to drop on supplies? That’s where the library fishing tackle loaner program steps in! Our awesome coworkers in Washington state started this program in 2021 and it allows folks to check out fishing kits just like they would a book. Luckily this great idea is catching on across the country and similar loaner kits may be offered by other state agencies or nonprofit organizations in your area (just do a quick internet search!).

On the sixth day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me six carp-a-jumping (the invasive kind!).

Invasive carp have become a big issue and a big pain for local economies and habitats! Large portions of the nation’s river systems are now occupied by one or more species of invasive carp, so any gift that involves removing them from the water is a good one! If you’d like to see a video of the carp “a-jumping,” check out our story about the Service’s collaborative efforts to control them in the southeast.

On the seventh day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me seven sturgeon swimming.

If your angler ever gave you seven sturgeon, you better have a really big body of water for them! Capable of reaching lengths of 20 feet, white sturgeon are the largest fish in in North America, and all sturgeon are basically living dinosaurs! In fact, they’re so amazing that we dedicated an entire Fish of the Week podcast episode to them!

On the eighth day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me eight staff-a-spawning.

Have you ever wondered what goes into spawning and raising millions of fish? Lucky for us, our friends at Quinault National Fish Hatchery have written out a short and sweet version of this complicated and time-consuming process!

On the ninth day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me nine darters darting.

Did you know that darters make up 20% of freshwater species in North America? That’s a DELIGHTFUL DELUGE OF DARTING! Darters are super important to our freshwater stream environments and even do cool things like help mussels reproduce by transporting their little larvae. One of the most vibrant (and endangered!) of these adorable fish are candy darters and the staff at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery have been hard at work raising and spawning the species for their conservation!

On the tenth day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me ten pike-a-prancing.

You might be asking yourself, do pike prance? And we would like to remind you that prancing is in the eye of the beholder! Prancing, floating, or just plain swimming, we really know our way around Northern pike as they’re our 5th most stocked species! And that’s a pretty big deal because we stock a LOT of fish!

On the eleventh day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me eleven bobbers bobbing.

Ok that’s probably going a bit overboard with the bobbers, but it never hurts to have backups! If you’re a new angler and aren’t sure where the bobbers go (or how set up any part of your fishing rod, for that matter!) head over to our Guide to Fishing for the First Time!

On the twelfth day of Fishmas, my angler gave to me twelve dams-a-tumbling.

Arguably the most romantic of all twelve Fishmas gifts are the dams-a-tumbling, tumbling down that is! Outdated and obsolete dams, culverts, levees, and other barriers seriously fragment our nation’s rivers and streams, preventing aquatic critters from migrating (ummm and leading to increased flooding for local communities!). Luckily the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has funded $35 million for 39 projects in 2023 alone that will help address issues from these outdated structures.

Story Tags

Fish hatcheries
Fish passage
Sport fishing

Recreational Activities