Why do we love to travel so? Why are we so passionate about it? These questions are far too deep for me to be able to fully handle right now (I’ve not even had my morning coffee yet), but there are some simple reasons we can look into.
One of which, of course, is the need for a vacation. To get away from the 9 to 5 grind for a week or two and luxuriate by a beach, a pool, on the deck of a cruise ship, wherever takes your fancy. Unless you’re one of these more adventurous vacation-takers, that’s totally fine too. Go somewhere exotic and abseil into an active volcano, if that’s what you’re into.
Another interesting possibility for a love of travel is this one: maybe you have a hobby or lifestyle that takes you all around the world. You may think of fishing as a slow, serene, local sort of activity, but there’s a whole world full of intriguing, dangerous and super-teethy fish out there. The true angler wants to battle as many of them as they can, and that means traveling the waters of the globe.
Sadly, the more realistic angler can’t generally afford that sort of thing. Living vicariously it is, then, through fearless fisherman Jeremy Wade. The extreme angler and biologist is the host of River Monsters, a documentary series in which he tangles with fish and marine life that really should not be tangled with.
In honour of Wade’s heroic and educational exploits, let’s take a look at some of the most ominous and bizarre creatures ever seen on River Monsters, as well as some that never have (or never should have) been featured. It’s a festival of great barracudas, fearsome batfish, giant salamanders, green anacondas and a whole lot more, so steel yourself and let’s dive in.
25 ACTUALLY FOUND- Giant Japanese Salamander- Yep, It’s Pretty Darn Big
Only the second largest species of salamander in the world? Ah, well, it’s better than nothing. They still grow up to 1.5 meters long and can weigh up to 25 kilograms, which is a whole heaping heckola of a lot of salamander by anyone’s standards.
The Giant Japanese Salamander is featured in River Monsters season 3, episode 6. It sees Wade pursuing the Kappa, a legendary water demon of Japanese folklore, only to encounter one of these strange and noble creatures instead.
The Japanese salamander is cross-breeding with its critically endangered Chinese counterpart (the largest salamander specimen on Earth), and it’s one of these hybrids that Wade catches a glimpse of. In this case, his catch itself wasn’t so impressive, relatively speaking.
24 NEVER SHOW ON TV: The Great White Shark- The Greatest Maneater Since Nelly Furtado
How long did it take you to go back in the water after watching Jaws? Well, I saw it at the age of twelve or so, and I never freaking have. What does that tell you?
There isn’t a big enough boat in the world, friends, there really isn’t.
Of course, Jaws is a work of fiction, but it served to make the great white shark a bit of a popular culture villain. It is the shark species with the most recorded attacks on humans to its name, as the International Shark Attack File demonstrates, but actively hunting us? That’s a different matter.
Nevertheless, we’re going a little out of even Wade’s comfort zone here.
23 ACTUALLY FOUND: Sawfish- Well, That Doesn’t Sound Too Friendly
There’s one thing that you can say for the more menacing marine species: they tend to be named appropriately. The sawfish, for instance, doesn’t sound like a happy-go-lucky little dancing cartoon fish from The Little Mermaid, does it? it sounds more like an intimidating let’s play a game sort of fish (yep, the Saw movies freak me out).
That’s because it kind of is. This distinctive creature is instantly recognised by the tooth-lined rostrum (or saw) that it primarily uses to hunt its prey. They can be super darn big (one specimen found was 16ft long, according to ElasmoWorld).
Wade himself tangled with and caught one of these proud creatures in season three’s “Chainsaw Predator”.
22 NEVER SHOW ON TV: Sunfish- Sunny Side Up
I’m all kinds of conflicted here. I don’t know how to feel about the sunfish, I really don’t.
On the one hand, they remind me of the adorable and harmless Pokémon named Alomomola (its design was based on the Sunfish, a creature also known as the Mola Mola).
On the other… well, they are not adorable. The real thing looks like an artist’s spooky Halloween take on the ‘real’ Alomomola, and I’m just not down with that. Look at its eye. That’s totally unsettling.
As reported by SportDiver, too, these things are huge. The heaviest specimen recorded weighed 2.5 tons! Let’s see you reel one of these monsters in, Wade.
21 ACTUALLY FOUND: Saltwater Crocodile- Never Smile At A Crocodile
Of all the majestic and fearsome creatures lurking in our oceans and rivers, none give me quite as many heebie-jeebies as crocodiles do. I live in the UK, where we don’t see any interesting and exotic beasts like these, but I still know what I’m talking about. I watched Peter Pan, after all, and that ticking crocodile stopped me from sleeping for far too darn long, let me tell you.
The saltwater crocodile, in particular, is a foreboding one. Not only is it the largest of all crocodile species, but it boasts a bite force of 3,700 pounds, which researchers report “…is like being pinned beneath the entire roster of the New York Knicks… but with bone-crushing teeth."
Saltwater crocodiles have appeared in various episodes of River Monsters, most notably in season eight’s “Death Down Under.”
20 NEVER SHOW ON TV: Scrawled Filefish- Social Media To The Rescue
As we all know, social media is what you make of it. It can be a force for good, a way of keeping up with friends and family you just don’t get to see often enough, or it can… definitely not be. It can be a cesspool of procrastination, attention-seekers and videos of cats playing pianos.
As Azula reports, though, social media can save lives. In 2016, A Japanese student fished up a catch they just had to share with Twitter. He had no idea the creature was as dangerous as it is bizarre and intriguing, though.
Unbeknownst to him, he had a scrawled filefish on his hands. Replies to his tweet flooded in, warning him of the super-potent poison in the fish’s body (“its intestines boast a toxin 70 times more poisonous than that of fugu, the popularly eaten pufferfish,” we’re told).
And so tragedy was averted.
19 ACTUALLY FOUND: Red-Bellied Piranha- It’s Definitely No Yellow-Belly
Ah, yes. Here we are, friends. One of the most famous and feared predators in the world’s waters, the piranha. If the cartoons and the like are to be believed, these fearsome fish can pick a person clean in a second flat.
River Monsters has covered these little menaces extensively over its run, starting from the very first episode to air. The show has proven that they’re certainly aggressive creatures with powerful bites, but perhaps not the man-hungry monsters they’re often portrayed as. For one thing, they’re hunted by a much larger and angrier fish themselves, the arapaima. So, there’s that.
18 NEVER SHOW: Stimpson’s Goby- Driving You Right Up The Wall
Sometimes, in the pursuit of strange, unusual and frightening fish, it’s not just about being the biggest. The most frightening. The bitey-bitey-est. These factors are certain pluses, sure, but let’s not discount other things. Things like the bizarre ability to climb rock faces using their mouths.
That’s right, friends. The Stimpson’s goby may not look like much, compared to the fearsome likes of the great white shark. It boasts a very unusual and disconcerting trait, though, which I would not want to see in action on the show.
As Nerdist explains, “Stimpson’s goby actually scales up the slippery rock faces of waterfalls using its mouth as one half of an amazing climbing mechanism.”
This whole thing makes me feel a little uncomfortable, I don’t mind telling you. What you’re looking at here is the blue-banded goby, simply because it’s much prettier.
17 ACTUALLY FOUND: Wolf Fish- Be Thankful There Isn’t A Whole Pack Of Them
Again, that’s a powerful name straight off. You can immediately tell that this isn’t going to be a fish you’ll want to mess with. At the same time, you can also be darn sure that it’s a fish Jeremy Wade absolutely will want to mess with. And so he has.
In seasons three and four of River Monsters, this ravenous predator started to show up. It features in episodes “Jungle Killer” and “Lair of Giants,” as Wade investigates some awful injuries in the Suriname area believed to have been caused by these great, powerful predators.
Think piranhas, only without even the decency to be relatively small.
16 NEVER SHOW: The Whale Shark- It’s Big And Angry
Now, I’m no fishing expert. I’m not especially well-versed in the ways of marine life, either. Not unless you count owning a goldfish back in the mid-nineties as being an expert in all things fish-tastic. If you were to ask me, though, I’d say that a creature that combines the characteristics of a whale and a shark is going to be something darn big and presumably dangerous.
When it comes to size, the whale shark is certainly that. It’s the largest known fish species in the world, comparable in size to some whale species. It’s also a filter feeder, however, and poses absolutely zero threat to anything larger than plankton.
That said, I’d definitely like to see Wade try and reel one of these vast creatures in.
15 ACTUALLY FOUND: The Humboldt Squid- The Kraken Awakes
Well, no, I think I might be overselling things a little there. If you’re expecting the great, hulking tentacle-monster from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, you’re going to be a little disappointed here.
These things may only reach six feet or so in length, but they’re very powerful, fast and aggressive. In the episode “Devil of the Deep,” Wade travels to Peru in pursuit of these creatures, and we learn that...
“Some reports of victims who were retrieved from the grasp of these monsters tell of the bodies being so heavily chewed that the family of the victims could not even recognize or identify them. So Wade says that the reality in this case is even scarier than the fiction.”
14 NEVER SHOW: Red Lionfish- A Prickly Customer
Now, this one, I’m definitely conflicted about. Is this one of the most beautiful and unique animals I’ve ever seen in my life, or is it one of the most frightening? My mind just will not decide.
The red lionfish is a very unusual customer all around. Not only does it boast vivid colours and patterns, but there are those wicked spines as well.
I think National Geographic puts it best: “Pretty much everything about the venomous red lionfish—its red-and-white zebra stripes, long, showy pectoral fins, and generally cantankerous demeanor—says, "Don't touch!"”
They may only reach a maximum size of around 15 inches, but boy are they a handful.
13 ACTUALLY FOUND: Tiger Shark- Easy, Tiger!
As anyone who’s watched River Monsters will tell you, Jeremy Wade is not an angler to be easily bested. Extreme fishermen are used to taking on some of the trickiest river- and ocean-dwellers on the planet, and they do not like their catches to escape from their lines.
It’s totally understandable, though, that some of their violent, aggressive and generally huge prey are going to slip away at times. In the episode “Killers From The Abyss,” a tiger shark did exactly that, escaping from Wade’s clutches at the last moment.
Looking at one of these sassy creatures (which grow up to 15ft long), I say respect its decision and let it do whatever it darn well pleases.
12 NEVER SHOW: Giant Freshwater Stingray- My, Grandma, What A Big Ray You Have
That’s right, friends. I know what you’re thinking. As fans of River Monsters will know darn well, one of these humongous creatures has indeed appeared on the show. Not only that, but it made for one of the most memorable encounters in River Monsters history. It’s just… how did this actually happen on TV?
In the second episode of season two (“Death Ray”), Wade takes two attempts at reeling in a giant freshwater stingray, among the biggest freshwater fish in the world. On the first try, his rod snaps (as does one of his tendons) trying to nab the huge creature. On the second, he bags himself a 400-pounder, only for it to prove to be pregnant and give birth right there and then.
I’ve never seen a show take such dramatic turns in succession. It was like trying to follow the twisty-turny plot of a Dan Brown novel, only with… stingrays.
11 ACTUALLY FOUND: Great Barracuda- The Fast & The Furious
When you think of quick, aggressive marine species that you really wouldn’t want to be sharing a swimming pool with, the usual suspects spring to mind. We’ve already taken a look at some of them here. The piranha, the great white shark, all of those guys and gals.
One fish we sometimes sleep on is the barracuda. That’s a real injustice, because these things are incredible predators too. Wade tangled with several in the season eight episode “Razorhead,” which introduced us to these lightning-fast hunters and the squadrons they live and travel in.
We also learned that the barracuda can pose a real threat to anglers as it’s being reeled in, but did that stop Wade? Of course it didn’t.
10 NEVER SHOWN: The Moray Eel- An Uniquely alarming One
In comparison to a lot of the species we’ve seen over the course of this rundown, the moray eel isn’t especially exotic. It’s not all flashy-coloured or patterned, it’s not exclusive to a particular part of the world, it can’t climb walls with its mouth and it doesn’t star in movies.
Regardless of all of this, it’s still an intriguing and slightly alarming creature. Eels of this family have pharyngeal jaws (a second, smaller set) as do some other creatures, but the way that they use them (they’re ‘shot’ into the mouth from further into its throat and back again, so as to aid feeding) is believed to be unique in nature.
9 ACTUALLY FOUND: Green Anaconda- It’s So Long, So… So Long!
Typically, you wouldn’t think of snakes as marine creatures. The idea of them swimming is just hilarious to me (where would the water wings go while they were learning?), but that’s all kind of biologically incorrect.
This is no time for snark, though. The important thing is that the green anaconda (sometimes known as the water boa) spends the majority of its life around and in water. It’s the biggest known snake in the world to boot. With these two facts in mind, it’s just inevitable that River Monsters would have featured them.
In the episode “Bone Crusher,” our host comes across a specimen that is around twenty feet long!
8 NEVER SHOW: Basking Shark- You Call That A Mouth? *THIS* Is A Mouth
Well, goshdarnit. That’s a mouth and a half, friends. As Nietzsche once wrote, “if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee… the abyss being a basking shark’s mouth, because that’s one heckola of a void, right there. I mean, come on, that’s just excessive mouthyness."
I’m not here to question why great philosophers think it’s okay to just invent words like mouthyness (which they don’t, because I just made that up). I’m just here to tell you that, like the whale shark, this gentle giant is a harmless plankton-eater. It’s so named for its habit of feeding near the water’s surface, seemingly basking in the sun.
7 ACTUALLY FOUND: Electric Eel- The Power It’s Supplying, It’s Electrifying
Oh, great. The Grease soundtrack is going to be stuck in my head for at least the next week now. Good job, me.
Never mind that, though. We’ve got much more important matters to discuss. Like the River Monsters episode “Electric Executioner,” in which Jeremy Wade investigates how a mass of electric eels caused the unfortunate demise of three Brazilian cowboys.
In and of themselves, these creatures are nothing particularly impressive to look at. In terms of size, colouring, distinguishing features and the like, they’re a little on the vanilla side. Don’t be deceived, though, because they’re some of the most powerful and formidable creatures to have featured on the show.
6 NEVER SHOW: The Red-Lipped Batfish- Completely Bat-ty
Now, we all know that it’s bad to judge books by their covers. We totally do. The tough thing about that, though, is that we live in such a material world (as the ever-wise Kylie Minogue once said), we’re superficial, we tend to measure worth by how many likes, retweets and comments somebody has.
We look at Australia’s duck-billed platypus and question it based on its appearance. If the red-lipped batfish was a better know creature, we’d all be doing that too.
It’s just got such a strange combination of traits that it’s a little tough to look at. Those odd furry bits, the furious facial expression, the lips that, as The Verge snarkily but rightly states, “look like a pair of Twizzlers melting in the sun.”
Here’s something that, to me, looks like it needs even less of the world’s attention, not more.
5 ACTUALLY FOUND: Chinese Seerfish- Almost As Special As It Sounds
See, this is what I was just talking about. Superficiality. Like the moray eel, the Chinese Seerfish doesn’t look especially unusual. With no fancy colours, poisonous spines or odd-shaped appendages to its name, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s… just a fish.
It’s notable, however, because it’s a very rare prize. In season four’s “Asian Slayer,” Jeremy Wade was searching a lake of exotic fish for a Sareng Catfish. The Sareng, while rare itself, is not as rare as the Seerfish, which he did manage to catch here by accident (this is the Sareng he actually did eventually get). It’s funny how these things can work out sometimes.
4 NEVER SHOW: Angler Fish- Frights From The Deep
It’s quite interesting how, in this technology-tastic world of 2018, there’s so little we know about certain parts of our planet. Radars, scanners and probes have taught us a lot about the depths of the oceans, but there could be a whole array of species down there that we’ve never even seen.
Judging by some denizens of the deep, it may be best to keep things that way. For me, there’s no more frightening deep sea creature than the angler fish. This thing is notorious for its alarming looks and… well, that’s mostly all, but isn’t it enough? Back to the depths from whence it came!
3 ACTUALLY FOUND: Black Caiman- Weren’t Crocodiles Angry Enough?
So, I’m not going to get into an issue as controversial as crocodiles versus alligators. There are fans on both sides that take things a little too far, it all gets heated, snout size debates get out of hand… it’s not worth it, friends, it really isn’t.
Let’s just agree that they’re both fearsome scaly predators that only Jeremy Wade would mess with and have done with it.
Interestingly, the black caiman has appeared in more episodes of the show than any other animal. Ten, to be precise, though it’s never been the ‘star’ of any one show. Quite surprising, when you consider what a colossus this thing is (it grows up to 16ft long and up to 1000 pounds).
2 ACTUALLY FOUND: Mahi Mahi Dorado- It Sure Looks Mahi Mahi
Here’s another creature with a name that makes its formidable nature quite clear.
What does Mahi Mahi mean? I’m glad you asked. It’s Hawaiian for very strong. You know what? I think they just might be right on that one.
The Mahi Mahi Dorado featured in the first episode of season nine, “Killers from the Abyss.” It’s brightly-coloured (what isn’t in Hawaii), agile and muscular.
It also –and this is a key feature of the fish, I feel-- sports a noble forehead like Kelsey Grammar in his Frasier days, because what’s a receding hairline to a fish? It’s rocking that thing.
1 NEVER SHOW: The Stonefish- Stony Faces All Around
Wait, scratch anything I’ve ever said or thought about being ‘most afraid’ of such-and-such a fish. The stonefish is the real deal. It’s the ultimate.
Now, yes, this little terror has appeared on River Monsters. You can check out Wade and his stony friend right here on YouTube, come to think of it. Again, though, I will never understand how this actually happened on TV.
Protected by nothing more than a pair of sunglasses and his British charm, Wade demonstrated the stonefish’s super-strong venom (delivered by spins on its back, when people inadvertently step on it) and fantastic it totally is a stone camouflage.
Resources: River Monsters Wiki, Florida Museum International Shark Attack File, ElasmoWorld, SportDiver, ScienceDaily, Azula, National Geographic.