Posted by: Brad Nixon | September 12, 2018

At the Sign of the Three-Eyed Fish

There was, reportedly, an episode of “The Simpsons” in which one of the characters either catches or buys a three-eyed fish and Mrs. Simpson serves it for dinner.

This post is not about that.

This is about a bit of — literally — local color in San Pedro, California.

To see this curiosity, drive west on Gaffey Street, one of the principal streets of the Los Angeles-area city. You’ll crest a hill as you’re approaching Point Fermin park at the end of Gaffey.

There are a lot of distractions. Straight ahead of you is the park and its Victorian era lighthouse, with the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island on the horizon. To your right is the Korean Friendship Bell.

Partway down the hill, you reach a stop sign where 38th Street enters from the left.

Stop and look to your right.

San Pedro 3 eyed Brad Nixon 1040 680

As promised: three-eyed fish. Kinda cute, in its way, don’t you think?

Graffiti? Street art? Arcane emblem of some secretive maritime organization? Rumors abound. The three-eyed fish has taken on something of a life of its own. One occasionally spots bumper stickers and window decals imitating the image on local vehicles.

The story is brief, but interesting. A local artist, Dave Butkus, painted the piscine mutant on that concrete drainage abutment in 1991 or 1992 as a protest against the dumping of toxic substances into San Pedro Harbor and the Port of Los Angeles.

Local lore has it that as Mr. Butkus’ work weathers or gets tagged with graffiti, someone restores it, but not he. If you search online for images of the fish, you’ll see variations evident as successive touchups occurred, and little or none of the underlying original may persist. But it’s as much theme or concept as execution, and the idea is what matters.

Fish Finding

The three eyed fish is located on Gaffey St. at the intersection with 38th, marked “FISH” in red, below.

Unless you’re a hard-core street protest art aficionado, the fish may not be enough to lure you to the far reaches of Los Angeles. There are a number of scenic and historic sites within a mile. I’ve written about several, underscored in the following map.

Fish map Google

The following links connect to blog posts about the Korean Friendship Bell, Point Fermin Lighthouse, Stephen M. White statue/Port of Los Angeles breakwater, Juan Cabrillo statue/Cabrillo Aquarium/Cabrillo Beach Bath House.

© Brad Nixon 2018. The three-eyed fish is an original artwork by Dave Butkus.


  1. Picasso as environmentalist, 45 years post mortem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting sign. 3 Eyed fish have entered the lore of my mind since I saw that episode of the Simpsons almost 20 years ago. Now every time I think of a Nuclear Power Plant on the Ocean, or a River I always think that a fisherman will pull out a 3 eyed fish.


    • Really. That Simpson’s episode was 20 years ago? Well, I’ve still never seen even a single one. Thanks for letting me know. Be on the lookout fir mutant fish.


      • Wah…. I looked it up. It was definitely a rerun when I saw it. It aired in 1990. Blinky the fish has appeared in almost every season.


      • So much to know. Thanks for the research.


  3. Interesting. I’m always interested in “evolving art” stories. I also find the the graffiti tags on freight trains and the like interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I especially like the way each eye is looking in a different direction. There were some cute versions in the image search, too: particularly, those drawn by schoolkids. One has eyelashes, a pink bow, and lipstick.

    It’s delightful that unknown someones keep the image fresh and unsullied. Until there’s anti-gravity, at least we can have anti-graffiti.


  5. Here ia a little ore-history of the 3-eyed fish. I lived on W38th St in Pedro 1/2 a block from the Korean Bell above Pt Fermin. Shortly before I left in May 1992 someone wrote some grafitti on that curved section of concrete embedded in bank below the Bell.

    I took some white paint and painted a silhouette of a big, fat fish with the spikey top fins and oriented so as to face left towards the water.

    There were no eyes or bubbles or gills, just the white outline.

    I have two kids still in town and a few other friends who can certify this if there is any further interest.

    I just see it as a marvelous unfolding of action upon action in very disconnected but ultimately whimsically significant way. I feel like my life is complete in some silly way.

    Eric Olson
    Black Forest, CO

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eric. Thank you. I’m in the middle of something, and have to take a pause before I reply, but I owe you a considerate reply for your most welcome message.


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