With fishing as a common Southern hobby, it’s no surprise that many country tunes mention fish. But that’s not the only genre that does! Motown, rock, and jazz also use fish, bodies of water, and fishing as songwriting inspiration. Read on to discover 19 of the best songs about fish.
1. “Fishin’ In the Dark” by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Song year: 1987
This song has made its mark on the country music canon ever since its release in the late 1980s. The steady, mid-tempo beat lends itself well to a catchy singsong melody, and it’s also a good song to put on to dance the two-step.
The lyrics portray a couple who go down to the river to fish but don’t catch anything. Ultimately, they don’t care whether they see any success, as long as they can be with each other and enjoy nature. As they fall in love, the sound of crickets serenades them beneath a glistening moon.
Garth Brooks covered “Fishin’ In the Dark” in 2005, and other country artists have borrowed it as well.
2. “Fish” by Craig Campbell
Song year: 2011
Country music is at its peak with Campbell’s tune celebrating his girlfriend. Saying she loves to fish any time of the day or night, he marvels at how she even sneaks out of the house to be with him.
On the surface, the lyrics are about fishing, but the implication is about more risque activities. A cheeky fiddle weaves in and out of the verses for a naughty musical touch.
3. “Barracuda” by Heart
Song year: 1977
Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson gave the world one of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time with “Barracuda.” The fast-paced rhythm, textured by manic drums and soaring vocals, drives the energy of this song, one of the band’s most famous.
The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous but seem to refer to a dangerous person who has the capacity to harm, similar to the killer instincts of a barracuda. In addition, there are references to a porpoise and other underwater elements, such as swimming.
In the 2000s, the Blackeyed Peas singer Fergie covered this song, giving it new life and introducing it to a new generation of fans.
4. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” by Radiohead
Song year: 2007
An obsessed partner sings to the object of his affection, saying that he is willing to follow her to the depths of the ocean. Her pull drags him downwards and entraps him, but he doesn’t mind, preferring her company even if it means his destruction.
Lianne La Havas covered this song in 2020, giving it her unique neo-soul sound.
5. “Just Fishin’ “ by Trace Adkins
Song year: 2011
Common as a father-daughter dance number at weddings, this sweet story features the singer taking his little one out to the lake for some quality time. The connection between parent and child is touching, as he notes that his time with her making memories is precious.
Indeed, the Grammys thought so too, awarding “Just Fishin’” Best Country Song. It remains one of Adkins’ most popular tunes, and he often performs it in his live stadium shows.
6. “Dolphin” by Prince
Song year: 1995
Imaginative and ethereal, the lyrics to “Dolphin” show the narrator pleading with his lover to prove her love to him. He asks whether she would love him if he were reincarnated as a dolphin.
The sparse, laid-back verses give way to a heavier chorus before a unique bridge leads into a guitar solo. Prince’s instrumentation goes beyond a standard rock band setup to also include background strings, synth effects, and harpsichord.
This is the eighth track on The Gold Experience album. As was common for Prince, the music is a blend of rock with funk and other elements from outside genres. Eclectic and groovy, “Dolphin” is some of his most underrated output, overshadowed by more popular tunes from the album such as “I Hate U.”
7. “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’” by Mel Torme
Song year: 1962
Mel Torme was a contemporary of Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and the other crooners who brought swing to the mainstream. Typically, their songs are about love and the joy of being alive, but here, Torme gives us a return to down-home roots.
The lyrics are about a hurt lover whose sweetheart has been lying to him. Rather than listen to her break his heart again, he decides to go fishing and clear his head. He talks about how excited he is to catch a giant trout, describing it in detail in comparison to how big his girl’s spun “yarns” are.
8. “Too Many Fish In the Sea” by The Marvelettes
Song year: 1964
Country, pop, and rock get to contribute to the fishy songwriting – so why not Motown, too? This cutesy up-tempo number encapsulates the 1960s girl-band feeling, complete with piano accents and hand clapping along with the rhythm.
The words are about a young girl whose mother warns her not to give her heart away to someone unworthy of her time, advising her that there are plenty of other suitors for her to choose from.
9. “The Fish Aren’t Bitin’ Today” by David Allan Coe
Song year: 1979
The theme of fishing resurfaces in this old-school tune. Though the steel guitar gives it a country sound, it melds elements of pop-rock and folk as well. This song makes a great bonfire singalong, only needing a guitar and a few harmonies to fill it out.
The storyline follows a sailor and his compatriots as they attempt to catch fish, to no avail. He tells them to unfurl the jib and give up for the day because he doesn’t anticipate them having any more luck. Instead, he plans to go under the ship and get drunk while the rain approaches.
10. “Five Pound Bass” by Robert Earl Keen
Song year: 1989
One of the most unabashed songs about fish, “Five Pound Bass” is all about angling. The narrator of this song is proud of his routine: He woke up early to get to the lake to do some fishing before the rest of the crowd got there. Saying that the early bird gets the worm, he gets his gear ready and finds the perfect spot to stake out in the hopes of catching a gigantic fish.
A country tune by nature, “Five Pound Bass” takes the sound one step further by including a banjo in the musical texture.
11. “The Whale That Swallowed Jonah” by Joe Bonamassa
Song year: 2011
From his album Dust Bowl, contemporary guitarist Bonamassa gives us this composition in his traditional blues-rock aesthetic. It’s expansive and raucous, unlike most of his more intimate songwriting.
“The Whale That Swallowed Jonah” is a little harder-edged than his usual fare, incorporating a full rock band rather than just vocals and solo guitar. Its arrangement adds piano for a sparkle and synth keyboard for fullness while letting the guitar wail in between verses.
The lyrics are based on a biblical story, as the narrator compares himself to Jonah and regrets the opportunities in life that have passed him by. He says he feels as if the whale swallowed him as well, and laments his uniqueness and loneliness in the world.
12. “The Goldfish (Let’s Go Swimming)” by The Laurie Berkner Band
Song year: 2018
A list of themed music isn’t complete without a kids’ song. This delightful melody features lots of musical interest, sound effects, and physical directions perfect for kids to follow as they listen.
The four-piece band provides a pop-rock atmosphere for the upbeat lyrics, which tell the story of a school of fish and their daily activities, such as riding bikes.
13. “Shut Up and Fish” by Maddie and Tae
Song year: 2015
The female country duo of Maddie and Tae gives us a whole lot of attitude in one of the most direct songs with fish in the title. They declare that even if a man drives a nice car and dresses well, it won’t impress them much if he can’t fish. Indeed, the music video supports the theme, with both girls holding fishing rods and wearing waders out in the water.
“Shut Up and Fish” offers a cute contrast of city boy and country girl as the band sings about their love of getting dirty out in nature. The boy takes selfies and generally gets on the girls’ nerves with his obliviousness to fishing etiquette. Eventually, one of them pushes him into the lake in frustration.
14. “Friday Fish Fry” by Kelis
Song year: 2014
Kelis, the singer famous for “Milkshake”, gives us another delicious tune off her album Food. Its rollicking, Louisiana-inspired aesthetic gets a boost from a brass section and backup vocalists, as she pleads with a romantic flame to give her what she wants and needs.
The correlation to fish here is subtle, but you could infer that the New Orleans performance style isn’t complete without some fresh seafood. At any rate, there’s a delightful musical gumbo here with a sound that appeals to anyone partial to high-energy sound.
15. “Gone Fishin” by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong
Song year: 1951
Two icons of their era, Crosby and Armstrong team up for this tune that appreciates the simple life. Farm scenes and a relaxing fishing trip to a shaded pool come to the forefront, with the narrator lamenting that his lady is never around when he comes to visit.
The soothing tones of Crosby’s crooning voice blend with Armstrong’s gruff rasp, making for a delightful duet. There is some dialogue and scatting interspersed with the melodic content (though, surprisingly, no trumpet lead). The orchestration is sparse, consisting of only a thin string line, which allows the vocals to take center stage.
Though this is the most famous version of the song, it had been recorded prior. In 1950, Jimmy Atkins released it, then Pat Boone did a cover in 1958 for his Yes Indeed! album.
16. “The Salmon Song” by Steve Hillage
Song year: 1975
This trippy tune is definitely straight out of the 1970s. A traditional rock band setup adds synthesizers, specialized guitars, flute, and Tibetan bell for a unique musical atmosphere.
Off the aptly-named Fish Rising album, this ode to the “King of Fishes” leaves no imaginative stone unturned. The words present a portrait of salmon voyaging upstream as a metaphor for human struggle. Supported by a raucous rock foundation, the song’s energy matches that of the salmon in its native habitat, as it makes a splashy effort to reach higher waters.
17. “Big Fish” by FFH
Song year: 1998
Bright and bubbly, this religious song encourages listeners to follow God’s plan so that they aren’t cast out. Using the biblical reference of Jonah and the whale, the band draws a comparison between people who follow the teachings of Jesus and those who fall away from them.
A one-hit wonder for this Christian group, it first appeared on their album I Want To Be Like You. The tune got significant radio airplay after its release but never reached the level of commercial success of some contemporaries.
18. “Fishin’ Blues” by Taj Mahal
Song year: 2003
The blues genre is connected to nature and the hobby of fishing just as much as country music. In Taj Mahal’s tune, fishing gets special treatment, with an upbeat finger-picked guitar supporting the vocals. Singing melds with some nonsense syllables and scatting to give the impression of a casual summer hobbyist heading to the creek.
The words are fun and lighthearted, discussing the success the narrator and his family members have when they go fishing. He catches a nice big catfish, which his wife fries up with buttermilk cakes and serves for supper.
19. “The Tunafish Song” by Cashman and West
Song year: 2014
There’s really no complex message to this song. It’s a little ditty about how the narrator gets hungry and loves to eat tuna fish sandwiches.
A simple guitar accompaniment makes for a bluesy accompaniment with a touch of jazz. A clarinet line adds some personality to the melody, and later in the song, a backup choir joins in on the chorus.
Top Songs About Fish, Final Thoughts
From different types of finned creatures to the act of fishing itself, fish have been an artistic subject for as long as music has been in existence. The country genre likes to cast a line in search of a good trout or bass, while gospel tends to use fish as a religious symbol. No matter the context, there are sure to be some songs about fish that suit your “taste!”