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Flat-out mean and ugly: 10 scariest fish on planet

5/22/2007

Part I

The rest of the the meanest, ugliest game fish in the world.

Giant Trahira

Brazil's giant trahira looks like something that should be chasing Sigourney Weaver around a spaceship.

This little-known fish weighs up to 50 pounds and has chompers that look like they could bite through nails. Think "nuclear walleye" and you'll have a good picture.

When hooked, this evil-looking primitive does a tarpon-on-steroids impersonation, jumping repeatedly.

You'll need heavy tackle to drag it out of the snag-filled jungle backwaters it typically inhabits, but chances are, even that won't survive a brutal battle with one of these raging bulls.

Don't hold a trahira near any body part you want to keep. They've been known to rip chunks of flesh from nitwits wading barefoot in shorts.

Ugliness scale: 9.8. Meanness scale: 9.0.

Black Piranha

"They are the most ferocious fish in the world," Theodore Roosevelt wrote of piranhas. "They will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast."

Mean doesn't begin to describe them.

Most of the 17 species in South American waters are beautiful fishes, but not so the black piranha.

The biggest of its clan, weighing as much as 13 pounds, this purplish flesh-eater looks like the embodiment of pure evil, with blood-red eyes and a jutting jaw lined with razor-edged teeth.

A fearsome 5-pound specimen in Brazil exploded on a big prop bait I cast, sending a spray of water high into the air.

When I lifted the fish over the gunwale, it bit cleanly through the 3/0 treble hook impaled in its jaw. They've been known to take off fingers and toes with equal ease.

Ugliness scale: 9.0. Meanness scale: 10.0.

Wels Catfish

Europe's wels catfish could star in horror movies.

This slimy monster has a misshapen head the size of a whiskey keg and a blotched, eel-like body that may stretch 10 feet.

The gigantic mouth can engulf prey as big as dogs and swans, something wels cats have been known to do.

Individuals weighing 440 pounds have been verified, and anglers targeting these big fish could put themselves at risk.

In July 2000, an Austrian angler died after hooking a wels reported to be 9 feet long. While battling the fish, Anto Schwarz was pulled off balance and dragged into a lake near Vienna. Entangled in his line and unable to swim, he drowned. Need we say more?

Ugliness scale: 10.0. Meanness scale: 9.7.

Lingcod

Saltwater fish get mean and ugly, too.

Consider the lingcod, covered with brownish-red blotches that make it look like it has some kind of skin disorder. Maybe that's what makes it so ornery.

A 40-pounder I hooked off Seward, Alaska, slammed me into the gunwale so hard I had bruises for weeks. Pity the person who hooks a really big one, which could top 80 pounds.

You'll find lingcod year-round in West Coast waters from southern California to the Gulf of Alaska.

They're aggressive and easy to catch on jigs and cutbaits fished around rock piles and reefs.

If you're tough enough to handle one, and it doesn't snap your line, steer clear of the huge, gaping mouth studded with big teeth.

The species' scientific name, Ophiodon elongatus, means "long snake tooth," an appropriate appellation.

Ugliness scale: 9.4. Meanness scale: 8.7.

Stingray

Folks say fighting a stingray on hook and line is no more fun than reeling in a sheet of plywood. Not so.

A 5-foot Virginia stingray gave me a skirmish I'll never forget, taking almost two hours to subdue.

That fish challenged my strength and determination to the max, and I'd love to hook up with another one this size.

Some species weigh hundreds of pounds.

Folks also say stingrays are beautiful, graceful creatures. Graceful, maybe. Beautiful, not.

These flattened relatives of sharks look like flying saucers with mouths. And if you're foolish enough to drag one in the boat with you, you could find out the hard way the dangers of the venomous, serrated spine on the fish's whip-like tail.

A maddened ray can drive this weapon clear through your leg or chest. And as the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin taught us, this can prove fatal.

Ugliness scale: 8.8. Meanness scale: 8.2.

Part I

To contact Keith Sutton, email him at catfishdude@sbcglobal.net. His book, "Out There Fishing" (Stoeger Publishing; $19.95), is available at www.catfishsutton.com.