The Fisherman and The Little Fish

A caught Fish pleads for life but the fisherman says no with no certainty of another.

A little thing in hand is worth more than a great thing in prospect.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

Little Fish

Milo Winter (1919)

A poor Fisherman, who lived on the fish he caught, had bad luck one day and caught nothing but a very small fry. The Fisherman was about to put it in his basket when the little Fish said:

“Please spare me, Mr. Fisherman! I am so small it is not worth while to carry me home. When I am bigger, I shall make you a much better meal.”

But the Fisherman quickly put the fish into his basket.

“How foolish I should be,” he said, “to throw you back. However small you may be, you are better than nothing at all.”


A small gain is worth more than a large promise.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

It happened that a Fisher, after fishing all day, caught only a little fish. “Pray, let me go, master,” said the Fish. “I am much too small for your eating just now. If you put me back into the river I shall soon grow, then you can make a fine meal off me.”

“Nay, nay, my little Fish,” said the Fisher, “I have you now. I may not catch you hereafter.”


Fisherman and Little Fish C1

Design: Randolph Caldecott, Engraving: J.D. Cooper, 1883

Fisherman and Little Fish C2

Design: Randolph Caldecott, Engraving: J.D. Cooper, 1883

A Fisherman cast his net and caught a little Fish. The little Fish begged him to let him go for the present, as he was so small, and to catch him again to more purpose later on, when he was bulkier. But the Fisherman said: “Nay, I should be a very simpleton to let go a good thing I have got and run after a doubtful expectation.”

Fisherman and Little Fish C3

Design: Randolph Caldecott, Engraving: J.D. Cooper, 1883

Fisherman and Little Fish C4

Design: Randolph Caldecott, Engraving: J.D. Cooper, 1883

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Angler and Little Fish

Ernest Griset (1874)

A Fisherman who had caught a very little Fish was about to throw him into his basket. The little fellow, gasping, pleaded thus for his life: What! you are never going to keep such a little chap as I am, not one quarter grown! Fifty such as I am wouldn’t make a decent dish. Do throw me back, and come and catch me again when I am bigger.” “It’s all very well to say ‘Catch me again,’ my little fellow,” replied the Man, “but you know you’ll make yourself very scarce for the future. You’re big enough to make one in a frying-pan, so in you go.”

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A fisherman who lived on the produce of his nets, one day caught a single small Fish as the result of his day’s labor. The Fish, panting convulsively, thus entreated for his life: “O Sir, what good can I be to you, and how little am I worth? I am not yet come to my full size. Pray spare my life, and put me back into the sea. I shall soon become a large fish fit for the tables of the rich, and then you can catch me again, and make a handsome profit of me.” The Fisherman replied, “I should indeed be a very simple fellow if, for the chance of a greater uncertain profit, I were to forego my present certain gain.”

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (The Angler and the Little Fish)

Croxall - Angler and Little FishA MAN was angling in a river, and caught a small Pearch; which, as he was taking off the hook, and going to put into his basket, opened his mouth, and began to implore his pity, begging that he would throw it into the river again. Upon the man’s demanding what reason he had to expect such a favour; Why, says the Fish, because, at present, I am but young and little, and consequently not so well worth your while, as I shall be, if you take me some time hence, when I am grown larger. That may be, replies the man; but I am not one of those fools who quit a certainty in expectation of an uncertainty.


This fable points much the same way as the sixty-fourth, so that one moral may very well serve for both. But the lesson they teach is so useful and instructive, that a repetition of it is by no means superfluous. The precept which they would instill into us is, never to let slip the present opportunity, but to secure to ourselves without a vain reliance upon, and fruitless expectation of something better in time to come. We may cheer up our spirits with hoping for that which we cannot at present obtain; but at the same time, let us be sure we give no occasion of condemning ourselves for omitting any thing which it was in our power to secure.

Whittingham - Angler and Little Fish

C. Whittingham (1814)

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual


Fisherman and Fish

Prayed the Fish, as the Fisherman took
Him, a poor little mite, from his hook,
“Let me go! I’m so small.”
He replied, “Not at all!
You’re the biggest, perhaps in the brook.”

A little certainty is better than a great chance.

1001Pisciculus et Piscator

Piscator, iactis retibus, pisciculum tantummodo traxit. Qui cum parvulus esset, eum supplex rogabat, aiens, “Ne nunc, quaeso, me capias, sed potius, quandoquidem sum tam parvus, relinque. Postquam autem crevero ac maior ero, tunc me comprehendes tibique maiorem quoque utilitatem feram.” Ad haec autem piscator ait, “Ast ego profecto stultus essem, si, quod manibus habeo, quamvis sit leve, lucrum abiecerim ac illud persequi vellem quod, magnum sit licet, in incerta spe tamen omnino consistit.”

Perry #018