Adventure Outdoors Magazine Summer 2016 - Page 78

JEREMY WADE AO: The Pacu fish, found in Papa New Guinea, is nicknamed the “ball cutter,” after killing two men by biting off their jewels. Is this fact or fiction? Are there any other murderous fish we should be aware of? JW: It turned out that the original report was an exaggeration. Nobody died. But people in PNG really are frightened by that fish, and I wouldn’t want to have to bathe in that water every day. Most of the incidents we investigate are very rare occurrences. The fish aren’t willfully attacking humans, but making a reflexive strike at something that looks like it might be food. The key here is the low visibility that’s common in fresh water. They can’t see the person, just the blurred white shape of a foot. And there are many fish that might go for a human foot, if the circumstances were right (or wrong, from the human’s perspective). One is the Goonch catfish, a hideous looking thing that was the subject of our first ever episode, filmed in the Himalayan foothills, in India. Other fish will go for humans even if they can see the entire human figure, but this is a very special subset of incidents, when the fish is protecting its nest or young. Snakeheads will do this, also piranhas (we’re talking single bites), but the results won’t be fatal. They could be fatal however if the protective parent is an Amazonian arapaima, which can grow to well over 200lb and head butt trespassers near their nest. I was once rammed by a “small” (80 pound) arapaima and it sent me flying. I could still feel the pain six weeks later. 76 Summer 2016 Adventure Outdoors AO: In the season 7 premiere of River Monsters, the “Canadian Horror” episode ended up being a very trying and mysterious Muskie case. What was the most frustrating thing about this particular fish? JW: They’re known as “the fish of ten thousand casts” and with very good reason. I’d had a couple of chances, but missed them, partly because I wasn’t technically up to speed. Muskie will sometimes follow a lure to the boat, and rather than take the lure out of the water you shove the rod tip under the surface and move the lure in big circles next to the boat, and sometimes the Muskie will take. But this technique takes some perfecting, and experience of how Muskie react. Anyway, having missed a couple of chances and spent so long fishing without result, my confidence had ebbed. And confidence is a huge part of angling: the belief that something will happen, that all this effort will bear fruit. When it goes, that’s bad news. I’d actually given up on Muskie when I hooked that fish. AO: Can you name another time in which you may have felt “beaten” or like you may not be able to solve the case? JW: There was a fish in India that I didn’t catch, but that was all about not getting permits to film in the place where we needed to go. When it’s a straight contest with the fish, we have an amazing record of getting results. Our past track record puts tremendous pressure on us every time we head out, and I think that plays a big part, the expectation. There have been times when there has been extreme desperation, like the giant river stingray in Argentina, but then there was the last-minute turnaround in fortunes. Many of the fish I have caught on camera have been of a size that I couldn’t expect to better, but there have been a few when I knew that, with more time, I could do better. And on occasion I’ve been able to return and do just that, as in the case of the Lau-Lau catfish in Guyana. AO: Do you have a favorite place for fishing? If you could go anywhere right now for a fishing expedition, where would you choose to go? JW: It used to be Guyana, where the rivers are much richer in life than other jungle rivers in South America. But in the last few years there has been a very noticeable decline, which seems to be the result of commercial fishing to supply the gold miners. I’d actually like to go back and fish for Muskie again. There’s some unfinished business there. Despite the frustrations, or perhaps because of them, Muskie fishing is definitely a bug.