For many people, fishing is an excuse to get away from it all—to get back to nature and bask in the idyllic setting of your favorite fishing hole. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to bring home either dinner or a photo of that good-sized bass you reeled in. Most anglers don’t have to worry about losing fingers or being dragged underneath the water as you might with these fish, but then again, that’s why they’re on this list of the most dangerous fish for anglers. Large and in charge, these predatory fish are not only spirited fighters, but also tenacious to the end.
This is our list of the top seven most dangerous fish for anglers to reel in. On a bad day, they can chew up your fingers pretty good. On a really bad day, well, you better hope your fishing buddies can drive fast and know the location of the nearest emergency room.
1. Goliath tigerfish
With a name like goliath tigerfish, you’re going to want to practice safe handling when unhooking this beast. Growing up to five feet long and weighing well over a hundred pounds, the goliath tigerfish is only found in the Congo River Basin and other nearby lakes in Africa. The fish enjoys a near-mythical status in its native environment, and has been implicated in a number of incidents in which it reportedly attacked humans. Researchers believe the fish may have trouble differentiating humans from other fish, and will attack people as prey. Tigerfish have even targeted adult crocodiles as food, although in that case it is probably intentional.
Despite this, the tigerfish is still considered a prize gamefish to many anglers. It’s size and dragon-like appearance only elevates the fish’s desirability, and many fishermen travel to the Congo from all over the world for a chance to fight this super-sized piranha.
Watch Jeremy Wade of River Monsters battle one of these gigantic fish below:
2. Giant catfish (wels and goonch)
Think the last blue catfish you caught was big? The wels catfish of Europe and the goonch (or giant devil catfish) of South Asia are both popular with anglers for their large size and fighting ability. After all, something named “giant devil catfish” isn’t about to let up without a battle. However, these large catfish also have a more notorious side, and both species have been accused of swallowing small children whole or dragging anglers underneath the water. Weighing up to 800 pounds and reaching lengths of 13 feet, there have been reports of wels catfish attacking anglers after their release, and in one incident, nearly drowned a Hungarian fisherman after latching onto his foot. The goonch, while smaller, is even more infamous for a spree of fatal attacks in the Kali River in India, where the “man-eating” fish is believed to have claimed a number of victims.
Once again, Jeremy Wade:
Fast, aggressive, and boasting saw-like teeth, pike can easily ruin your day if you let it. If you’ve ever seen pike take bait or snatch a duckling out of the water, then you’d know that these fish strike hard. Like many other predatory fish, pike attack in bursts that can surprise prey—and the unwary angler.
They are also known for their habit of thrashing around once out of the water, so you may be well-advised to keep the fish at least partially in the water unless you want some fresh bite marks on your hand.
Why you never put fingers near or in a pike’s mouth:
Imagine if you combined a snake with a piranha, and then made it unreasonably fast. What you would have is the barracuda, a hazard to swimmers, spear fishermen, and any angler brave enough to dare catch one. Barracudas are solitary fish that can eat prey as large as themselves. Skilled predators in their own right, barracudas often follow large fish in the hopes of picking up their scraps. Sometimes barracudas will mistake humans for large predators and stalk them for food. Understandably, many divers have reported barracuda bites, which can be serious.
Last year, a teenager fishing off the shores of Central Florida was rushed to a hospital after a barracuda sawed through his arm and cut a vein. The angler had been reaching over the side of the boat to change one of the hooks when the fish appeared “like a torpedo out of the water.” Thankfully, his father was able to drive him to a hospital in time to stop the bleeding, although at that point the fishermen described the boat as being drenched in blood.
Watch these barracudas engage in a feeding frenzy below:
5. Alligator gar
The largest species of gar, this freshwater fish is one of the largest game fish in North America and can grow up to six feet in length. While in the past the alligator gar has often been considered trash fish, this toothy predator is now growing in popularity. That does not mean catching one has gotten any safer, though. Due to their prehistoric heritage, alligator gar have two rows of teeth in their upper jaw for gripping prey. They have no qualms about using those rows of teeth on an unsuspecting angler if you get too close, so make sure you have the fish under control before attempting to release them.
Jeremy Wade recounts a story of an alligator gar attack:
As their name would suggest, billfish such as the blue marlin come quipped with a natural weapon: a spear-like beak that can impale or batter predators and prey. In the wild, billfish would often sweep this weapon to sweep through schools of fish, stunning their prey and eating up the ones that are dazed. Against anglers however, billfish can inadvertently impale even boats or fishermen, especially after jumping onboard.
What to do if a marlin jumps into your boat? Better hope you have good reflexes.
You didn’t really think that this list would end without sharks, do you? Whether it be tiger sharks, bull sharks, or even the rarely seen great white, this group of prehistoric fish contains the most dangerous species to anglers. By far the most famous predatory fish in the oceans, sharks can one-up just about every other fish in this list. They have the size, they have the teeth, and they even have a sense of smell that can detect blood in as little as one part per million of seawater. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a charter boat, kayak, or reeling them in from shore—there is only one word of caution for those who would battle sharks, and that is respect. Respect what these animals can do and remember that they are predators worthy of your caution.
Keep your hands and feet above the water at all times boys and girls. Includes strong language—and ill-advised shark feeding: