When it comes to the nature of reality shows, one automatically assumes that whatever is happening onscreen is real. Yet time and again, various news media outlets have exposed elements of these shows which are shown to have been faked. Some examples include tensions between couples that are competing in a competition together which tend to be exaggerated in order to create drama. Plus, there are a lot of situations that happen which turn out to be artificially created to serve a similar purpose. Whether one agrees with these accusations or not, there is the undeniable fact that reality shows still fall under the media form of television.
Now television, at its core, is meant to be entertaining. This even applies to shows that wouldn’t seem interesting at a glance, but the events in them have been greatly amplified in order to make them entertaining enough for a mainstream television audience. Such is the case for shows about fishing, which range from being educational to action-oriented dramas. Examples of the latter include Deadliest Catch, River Monsters, and Wicked Tuna who go out of their way to highlight the interesting stuff that happens when these guys catch fish of varying shapes and sizes. But even they have things they keep close to their chest and don't want to know, which this article plans to highlight!
25 Faking a Storm - Not Cool!
Though it’s debatable about whether TJ Ott of Wicked Tuna really did use different fishing reels during one take, some reality show accusations have much stronger evidence on their side. Such was the case in 2008, when Deadliest Catch was accused of faking a storm during a season premiere. To elaborate, the Hollywood Reporter magazine got ahold of the production outline for the episode (aka the overview of the things that happened in it) and discovered that the show used footage from a storm that happened earlier in the year than when the episode claimed to be taking place at.
24 Goonch - Most Dangerous Game
Though the catfish that stung Jeremy Wade was fairly small, they’re more likely to hurt people than the bigger ones as claimed by Catfish Edge since the barbs on big catfish tend to be blunter. With that said, though, the pilot episode of River Monsters was dedicated to a particularly large catfish called the Goonch. Located in India within the Kali River, this creature was believed to be the cause of several drownings due to its enormous size as recounted by Screen Rant. While Wade and his crew didn’t find out if this was true, they did catch the fish.
23 Climate Change - Long-Term Consequences
As television producers battle with scandals and other unexpected events that happen during the filming of reality shows, there are also environmental factors as well. One such problem is overfishing, which the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are experiencing from that Wicked Tuna covers but to an extent. Then the big problem is global warming, which is a heavily debated issue that has long term consequences on the world as a whole. Signs of it have been happening on Deadliest Catch, Screen Rant says, which covered the issue of how crabs are starting to move from Alaskan waters due to rising temperatures.
22 Jabbing Catfish - Ow!
In the Entertainment Weekly interview, Jeremy Wade recalls a time when he got hurt by a catfish. While catfish aren’t one of the most dangerous fish out there, they do have barbs hidden on their fins both on the topside and on the sides. Now according to Wade, “They tend to have a toxic slime in there” which isn’t lethal in of itself. However, it can cause things like swelling and “Increased blood flow” according to Catfish Edge. Now before anyone freaks out, the catfish that stung Wade was much smaller than the one he’s holding in the picture above.
21 Former Bank-Robber - Caught on Camera
Among the various controversies that Deadliest Catch has been accused of, one of the craziest ones has to do with a former crew member named Joshua Tel Warner. Though he’s not present in the above picture, he was part of the Wizard fishing ship. Prior to making his official appearance on television, he did commit several robberies at various banks from 2007 to 2009 according to Screen Rant which all happened in Oregon. As a result, he was wanted by the authorities who found him pretty quickly after he appeared on the show and was promptly imprisoned for many years.
20 Faking a Disability - That doesn't seem right!
Though awareness of disabilities has been relatively recent, there’s a lot that’s being done to accommodate people that have mental or physical issues that can make life difficult for them depending on the circumstances. Yet there are also those who take advantage of these types of accommodations in order to gain financial benefits for themselves. One such example comes from Wicked Tuna when Captain Paul Hebert of The Wicked Pissah pled guilty in 2016 for fraud charges. The reason for this, according to Radar Online, was that he had been receiving certain benefits for a disability that he was faking.
19 Million Dollar Crabs - Ka-Ching!
Despite the dangers involved in crab fishing, especially in places like Alaska where Deadliest Catch is primarily filmed, it can be a lucrative business depending on the type of crab the fishermen catch. For instance, the Red King Crab is considered to be the most valuable while the runner-ups include the Golden King and Snow Crabs. In fact, the estimated value of Red King Crabs that were caught the year prior to the show's premiere in 2005 came out to about 65.8 million dollars with each one costing 4.70 dollars a pound according to the Discovery Channel’s own website.
18 Massive Arapaima - Stronger Than It Looked
One of the biggest freshwater fish in the world, the Arapaima is native to the Amazon River and can apparently “Weigh up to 400 pounds” according to Entertainment Weekly. For this reason, it was featured on an episode of River Monsters as is obvious by the above picture. While the specimen shown here only weighed 80 pounds, Entertainment Weekly says, the Arapaima did manage to struggle enough in Jeremy Wade’s hands to where it “Hit him squarely in the chest”. While Wade wasn’t hurt, he did feel a strong pain in that area several weeks after the episode was shot.
17 Sushi Restaurant Sale - Million Dollar Tuna
Although Wicked Tuna primarily focuses on the commercial fishing of tuna in the United States, fish are a major export of Japan. On top of that, it’s also a big import as “3/4 of the global bluefin catch goes to Japan” as stated by Mental Floss in order to be converted into high-grade sushi. This industry is so big that restaurant owners will pay lots of money for the best catch. In 2013, for instance, the owner of Sushi Zanmai paid the equivalent to 1.76 million dollars for “The first bluefin tuna of the season” Mental Floss says.
16 Wiping Out the Competition - Oh Boy!
For many years, according to Screen Rant, there’s been tension between the Discovery Channel and the people of Alaska which has been “Documented well enough". The main reason for this has to do with a program that was launched in 2005 (the same year Deadliest Catch premiered) which “Set limits on how many crabs could be caught” according to Discovery. For this reason, all the attention that the main fishermen get in Deadliest Catch has affected those who aren’t in the spotlight causing them to catch less crabs by contrast which in turn ruins their livelihood leading to the resentment.
15 Muskie - Hard to Catch
Officially known as the Muskellunge, this is a large species of Pike that reside in the Great Lakes area as well as several rivers throughout the United States and Canada. They’re also said to be “Notoriously difficult fish to catch” according to Screen Rant because they’re very finicky compared to other fish species. So naturally, River Monsters decided to shoot an episode around catching this elusive fish. While it is said that it takes 10,000 casts to catch the Muskie, Screen Rant claims, such was not the case for Jeremy Wade who claimed that it took him 15,000 attempts instead.
14 Thunnus thynnus - Small Population
More commonly known as the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, this is the primary fish that’s caught on Wicked Tuna. Also known by several variations including the Northern Bluefin Tuna, it’s actually part of a “Small population that gathers annually in the Gulf of Mexico to reproduce” according to Mental Floss. In other words, this fish is not the only species that returns to the Gulf for reproductive purposes and its population size is relatively small compared to the others. Now according to ScienceDaily, “Yellowfin Tuna are more widely distributed throughout the warm Gulf waters” which are related to the Atlantic Bluefin.
13 Electric Eel - It's electrifying!
While River Monsters certainly does showcase many intimidating creatures, one of the most underestimated ones is the Electric Eel. Appearance-wise, it doesn’t strike fear in the same way that many other monstrous fish do on the show. Yet as its name implies, the eel is capable of producing its own electricity which can be harmful to a person depending on where they are in relation to it. For instance, even if the person was standing in shallow water near the eel “The shock can paralyze” them according to an interview with River Monsters’ host Jeremy Wade in Entertainment Weekly.
12 Departed Crabs - Bad for Business
Though crabs ultimately meet their maker in the fisheries where they are processed and sold to various markets around the world, they can meet an unexpected demise fairly early when being caught. When this happens, fishermen like the crews on Deadliest Catch usually throw the departed crabs away. Apart from natural factors, another possible cause for this probably has to do with how the crabs are caught which involves traps filled with bait. However, “Crabs often injure each other” when trying to go after the bait according to Discovery. Then if it’s serious enough, the injured crab will pass on.
11 Juvenile and Female Crabs - Thrown Away
Among the various crabs that are caught in the traps, they’ll either remain onboard the ship to be taken to the fisheries for processing or thrown back. While none of these factors can be predicted beforehand, there is a certain method that fishermen use to sort out the caught crabs to determine which ones stay or go, which most fishing crews practice as well. For instance, male crabs measuring 6.5 to 4 inches in the King and Snow Crab species are kept as stated by Discovery while the female and juvenile ones are “Tossed back into the sea” automatically.
10 Socking Fishermen - Leggo My Tuna!
One of the common stereotypes associated with fishermen is that they tend to be short-tempered and prone to starting fights. While this trope certainly doesn’t apply to all fishermen, it can sometimes crop up during certain situations that seem to fit the stereotype. Take for instance Tyler McLaughlin, who currently commands the PinWheel which is one of the many fishing ships featured on Wicked Tuna. In 2016, he was arrested for fighting “A fellow fishermen in North Carolina” according to Radar Online as well as charged for a misdemeanor. However, it’s unclear who started the fight or what caused it.
9 Undersized Crabs - Illegal by Definition
Aside from crabs that aren’t the right age to harvest, let alone gender, crab fishermen will also catch ones that are of different sizes. While it is assumed they keep the big crabs and let the little ones go, there are legal regulations that state how small a crab is allowed to be for it to be caught. If it’s any smaller than the minimal requirements, then that technically makes the catch illegal. Such a scandal happened to Captain Elliott Neese from Deadliest Catch who got in trouble for bringing in crabs that were too small according to Screen Rant.
8 Fight Caught on Camera - Oops!
Though Tyler McLaughlin’s kerfuffle with the North Carolina fishermen happened offscreen when Wicked Tuna wasn’t being filmed, there was one that did happen on camera. In fact, the entire episode it’s on was dedicated to this incident as it was aptly titled “Fish Fight”. The premise was that the various ships featured on the show were competing in a fishing competition in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and there was rivalry going on between the PinWheel and the Odysea as recited on Snap Twig. Then the captain of the Odysea, Ralph Wilkins, got into a fight with PinWheel’s captain McLaughlin Radar Online says.
7 Sued for Fireworks - Over-Excited
While crab fishing is already risky enough as is, it’s the most unexpected things that usually injure a person. For instance, in 2013 the Seattle Seahawks football team scored some major victories that season which they hadn’t done in a long time. So naturally, fans of this team got pretty excited including the Hillstrands who commanded one of the ships in one of the shows. They decided to celebrate with some homemade fireworks which they ignited off the boat, but one of their crewmen got injured in the process of lighting them and sued the Hillstrands for it according to Screen Rant.
6 Hotel Clerk Assault - Not a Good Guest
Because the National Geographic Channel is one of the oldest and most respected educational networks in television, it’s very problematic when scandals occur in relation to their shows and the people involved. Such has been the case for Wicked Tuna whose captains and crew members have reportedly done things off-camera that are seen as controversial and even criminal. For instance, David Marciano who commands the fishing ship Hard Merchandise was staying in a hotel in North Carolina while shooting an episode. But during his stay, he was arrested for pulling a front desk clerk’s ponytail according to Radar Online.
5 Candiru - Icky and Gross
While everyone’s always worrying about encountering big fish when swimming in water of any kind, a smaller one could easily catch a person off-guard and attack them more effectively as a result. One such example is a certain Amazonian fish called the Candiru, which is a smaller variant of catfish. Parasitic in nature, it’s infamously known for entering a person’s body through the nether regions whether they are male or female. In fact, this is the one species of fish that Jeremy Wade didn’t like handling when he covered them on a River Monsters episode according to Screen Rant.
4 Two Different Reels - Fake!
Like many other reality shows, Wicked Tuna has been accused of being fake. Yet this also applies to the fans, who debate on online forums whether certain aspects of the show are real or not. One such example happened in 2014 when fishermen TJ Ott was reeling in a fish during the latest episode, and he was supposedly holding “Two different reels in what was supposed to be the same scene” according to Radar Online. The source of this accusation came from a user named Kendall on The Hull Truth, who pointed out several other inconsistencies in the same episode.
3 Spy Accusations - Who spies on fish?
Prior to hosting the show River Monsters, Jeremy Wade was fishing in various places mainly for the sport of it with the intention of catching the fish and then releasing it afterward (which is pretty much what he does on the show anyway). But in 1984, Screen Rant says, Wade was actually accused of being a spy and arrested. At the time, he was fishing along the Mekong River which runs through several Southeastern countries in Asia including Thailand where the arrest happened. Though he hasn’t said why the Thai authorities made these accusations, it was during the Cold War.
2 Missing Man - Tribal Tensions
Apart from handling dangerous fish on River Monsters, Jeremy Wade also had to deal with the authorities in every country he went to as well as the locals. While it usually went smoothly, there were times when something problematic happened. While shooting along the Congo River in Africa, for instance, he arrived at a village where the village chief’s brother had recently gone missing according to Screen Rant. So there was tension that followed as the villagers suspected Wade and his crew had something to do with the missing man, even though he showed up later with no harm done.
1 No Paramedic - Not Good
While Jeremy Wade was always accompanied by a camera crew that filmed his every movement, they didn’t have a paramedic. Yes, the guy who caught dangerous fish on live television never had the equivalent to a doctor on hand. The main reason was that because Wade is a light traveler he couldn’t afford to bring a medic with him according to Screen Rant. Fortunately, members of the camera crew knew basic medical training and could deal with immediate emergencies if need be. Plus, Screen Rant states that Wade used a satellite phone to keep in touch with the production company.
Resources: screenrant.com, discovery.com, mentalfloss.com, ew.com, radaronline.com, sciencedaily.com, catfishedge.com, snaptwig.com, thehulltruth.com, hollywoodreporter.com