There’s an old, well-known adage on friendship: Friends come in all shapes and sizes. For Rex Colubra, that couldn’t be more true. The Wisconsin diver has developed a unique bond with a wild, smallmouth bass he named Elvis.
“My closest friend is a fish,” Colubra captioned a November 2022 Instagram post of him interacting with the fish underwater.
The pair found each other while Colubra was exploring a lake in 2021, according to an interview with South West News Service, per the New York Post.
“I was checking out a new spot and all these fish were coming up to me,” he said. “I noticed one was sticking closer than the rest. He wasn’t scared even when I got out. He stuck close to the surface in the shallows.”
This meet-cute made such an impression on Colubra, who sports diving gear during his explorations, that he went back to the same lake a few weeks later to reunite with his finned friend. But this time, the diver came with crawfish snacks — making their friendship of-fish-al.
Since then, Colubra has visited Elvis about a dozen times, documenting their reunions for his 174,000 TikTok followers and setting the adorable videos to music like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and “Sweet Caroline.”
“He’s completely obsessed with me. He follows me around and just stares me in the eyes,” Colubra told SWNS.
It’s clear the love is mutual. Colubra refers to Elvis as “my underwater lover,” “aqua puppy,” and “buddy beneath the waves.” The bond is so strong Colubra even developed a “call” of three gulping sounds to signal to Elvis that he’s in the lake (and maybe that some snacks are nearby).
Wondering how Colubra is certain he’s reuniting with the same fish? He explained in a caption that he recognizes Elvis based on his “unique mouth disfigurement.” In the videos, it’s apparent there’s a scar on his face — likely from a fishing hook.
While some TikTok users have urged Colubra to take Elvis away from the lake to protect him, he believes it’s best that his fish friend stay in his natural habitat. He wrote in a comment, “I’d only be taking his life in a totally different way.”
A former “avid fisherman that lived on the lake and went out almost daily,” Caruso previously opened up about how his fascination and admiration for fish developed — and why he turned in his tackle box.
“I went on a snorkeling trip and had the most amazing experience with tons of wild fish. Most of them coming right up to me and some letting me touch them. I was blown away by how intelligent and curious they were,” he captioned the November 2021 post in which he introduced Elvis.
“As I was under [the] waves, having this surreal experience, I was noticing that the majority of these fish had horribly disfigured faces,” he said, adding that he thought it was a type of disease affecting the lips of the fish.
But when he surfaced and saw the anglers, he put two and two together. From then on, “I traded my tackle box for goggles and haven’t been happier,” he said.
“I’m all for hunting and fishing for food, when done ethically, do it myself, but there’s no real justification for me to hurt these animals for my amusement anymore. It’s far more rewarding to swim with them,” he continued. “I’m all for personal freedom, and you’re free to choose what you want to do, but this is my choice.”
In addition to simply being heartwarming and sweet, the duo’s unlikely friendship counters the common belief that fish have extremely short memories. Research shows that fish are not only smarter than we think, but they can have memories far longer than a few mere seconds. One study even showed that fish can recognize and distinguish human faces.
Studies aside, these videos are a reminder that special friendships can come into your life when you least expect it — and to hold onto those connections.