The earth is full of crazy looking sportfish—big fish with teeth and bad attitudes. Fish that attack lures with a vengeance and possess enough unique characteristics to set them far apart from the ordinary. These are specimens that look as though they could tear off your face with one chomp of their jaws or else remove it with surgical precision.
These are not some obscure sea monsters living in the deepest depths of the ocean or in some isolated alpine stream. This collection of dangerous fish reside in lakes and rivers across the globe and await the next angler who dares to cross their path.
Two pronounced fangs exceeding 2 inches in length grow from a paraya’s bottom jaw and slide perfectly into recessed holes in their top jaw. They possess a sinister look and the spirit of a killer. Paraya can be found in fast-current areas of rivers across South America, with Venezuela and Colombia harboring some of the biggest specimens topping 30-pounds. Many anglers search the Amazon for payara and other exotic species.
How to Fish for Paraya
Paraya are pack hunters and slashing feeders. They impale and disorientate baits with their fangs and then come back to devour wounded prey. Strikes are lighting fast. Large colorful crankbaits, including Mag 18 Rapalas and DUO FangBait 140DR, are the best bet in strong current areas. Walk-the-dog surface lures work well in slick water areas adjacent to rapids.
How This Fish with Fangs Fights
On a fishing trip to Colombia, I saw anglers have their rod-and-reel combos yanked from their hands by quick striking payara. In a fast current, these fish are nearly unstoppable, making blistering runs both upstream and down in Class 5 rapids. Their leaping ability will put most fish to shame, and their hard, bony mouths make for a landing percentage of less than 50 percent.
2. Alligator Gar
A basic anatomy that has gone unchanged since the time of dinosaurs, and a top-end size of more than 400 pounds distinguish alligator gar from every other fish out there. They rank so high on the gnarly meter that anglers have started to mix alligator gar facts and mythic legends. Alligator garfish live in waters in Gulf states of the U.S., as well as northern portions of Mexico with drainage to the Gulf of Mexico.
How to Fish for Alligator Gar
These fish eat almost anything that swims, flies, or scurries within their range. A quick snap of their jaws will trap a bait in their mouth. They often work to crush the bait and then move-off to swallow it later. Large Rat-L-Traps worked slowly within range of their oversize mouth will illicit savage strikes. Heavy-duty spinnerbaits with a stout trailer hook can be fished around thick cover during periods of flooding when gar venture beyond the river banks.
What Makes the Gator Gar One of the Meanest Fish in Freshwater
For starters, alligator gar fight dirty. They frequently swim into submerged trees to tangle lines and pull hooks. In open water, they use their body mass to pull around the boat and make spectacular head-thrashing leaps.
3. Niugini Black Bass
These fish have canine teeth and crushing power to rival even the toughest fish in saltwater. They routinely rank among the hardest fighting fish in freshwater for good reason. Anglers can target these fish in the remote, clear-water rivers of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
How to Fish for Niugini Black Bass
These brutes are ambush feeders that routinely position themselves among submerged trees and hit baits as they are heading back into their snag-filled lairs. Big crankbaits fished tight to cover will get annihilated. Upgrade to XH split rings and hooks or be ready to be owned by these fish.
Why the Niugini Black Bass Is Such a Hard Fighting Fish
Savage strength is the hallmark of Niugini black bass. On an exploratory trip to untouched rivers in PNG, we had 150-pound-test braided line snapped, lures smashed in two, reel drags stripped, rods ripped from anglers’ hands, and even had an experienced, international angler brought to his knees and then dragged across the bow of the boat by one of these beasts. The first 30 seconds with a trophy Niugini black bass are as memorable as anything in fishing.
4. Wolf Fish
There’s nothing pretty about wolf fish. They have an oversized head, a mouth full of formidable teeth, jet black eyes and an oversized tail. These hard-fishing fish can be caught in the remote rivers of the northern half of South America, including portions of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Brazil, harbor the largest populations of these sporty fish.
How to Fish for Wolf Fish
Wolf fish hit prey not like they want to eat it, but as if they are looking to obliterate it. Residing behind boulders in fast-water settings and resting tight to overhanging cover, they often strike quickly as objects pass within their range. Their jaw strength is formidable. Surface poppers offer the most visual excitement for anglers, but a well-placed, heavy-duty spinnerbait or wake bait will get their attention.
What It’s Like to Tangle with This Nasty Fish
Wolf fish are among the hardest fighting fish in the jungle. They have power and stamina in reserve.
5. Golden Dorado
Razor-sharp teeth, powerful jaws, a mean attitude and bright golden coloration with black stripes give golden dorado their “river tiger” nickname. These incredible sportfish live in the rivers of South America, with primary populations residing in the Upper Paraná River of northeast Argentina, as well as Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.
How to Fish for Golden Dorado
Dorado feed both in packs and individually. They are slashing feeders capable of maiming multiple baitfish as they charge through bait pods situated along current seams. If a bait is too big to be swallowed whole, their powerful jaws will cut it down to a more manageable size. Being cannibalistic, trophy-size dorado are known to attack other dorado nearly half their size.
Large crankbaits such as Rapala Super Shad Raps and Mag 18s are among the most prolific lures for Dorado residing in fast-water tailrace settings. In smaller clear-water settings, fly fishing tactics, as well as spoons, spinnerbaits and topwater, are effective for these aggressive predators.
Why the “River Tiger” Is One of the Hardest Fighting Freshwater Fish Species
Dorado hit lures with a vengeance. Once they feel the sting of the hook, they go airborne—violently thrashing their head to dislodge the lure. With broad muscular frames, dorado have the strength and stamina to go 12 rounds with anglers.
6. Giant Snakehead
The broad snake-like head and formidable teeth on giant snakeheads are the things of horror movies. Their stealth, power, and tackle-destroying nature are enough to give any angler nightmares. Giant snakeheads live in the rivers and reservoirs of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
How to Fish for Giant Snakeheads
Explosive strikes are the hallmark of giant snakeheads. They have the ability to cut a bait in two with one bite and then circle back to eat the second half. A large percentage of giant snakeheads strike lures out of sheer aggression, rather than hunger, as they actively guard their fry balls for weeks after they are born. They are comfortable exploding through heavy vegetation to crush a frog off the surface, and equally adept at rush feeding a tilapia in open water. Topwater frogs, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, and deep-diving crankbaits are traditional favorites among snakehead anglers.
If You Hook This Fish with Big Teeth—Hang On
Strength, endurance, and guile are the calling card of giant snakeheads. These fish will blast a lure on the surface out of anger and then instantly dive 15 feet, pulling maximum drag off reels. They are capable of wrapping around submerged timber in mere seconds. If they can’t bust oversized braided line, they will straighten 3X treble hooks and destroy lures.
Their top-end size surpassing 400-pounds, crimson-tipped scales, prehistoric anatomy that includes a primitive lung permitting atmospheric breathing, and a head as hard as steel, make the arapaima a gnarly fish worthy of every angler’s attention. Arapaima live primarily in the Amazon and Essequibo River basins of South America, with ancillary populations in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. However, a dead arapaima was recently found in Florida, indicating the fish could be added to the state’s long list of invasive species.
How to Fish for Arapaima
Opportunistic feeders, arapaima will both scavenge dead bait and hunt live prey weighing several pounds. Due to their ability to breath air, they can reside in lagoons with marginal oxygen levels during the dry season and then wreak havoc on oxygen-deprived prey. As they approach a bait, they quickly open their oversized mouths to suck the bait and surrounding water like a vacuum. Articulating swimbaits, along with glide baits and large jerk baits, are prime lure options when fished slowly on heavy tackle. Anglers have also started targeting arapaima on the fly.
Don’t Let an Arapaima Knock You Out
Due to their large body mass, these fish have the ability to pull a boat around for more than 20 minutes before tiring. They make spectacular water-spraying jumps and incredible tail-walking displays across the surface. Adding to the challenge of landing these fish, arapaima commonly use their head as a weapon at boatside in an effort to snap lines, throw hooks, break rods, and even knockout anglers.
8. Black Piranha
Serrated teeth and strong jaws allow these fish to cut through flesh, ligaments, and bones with ease. Piranhas make mincemeat of fishing line, light wire leaders, and 1X hooks. Menacing red eyes and a top-end, size pushing 10-pounds make them an angler’s worst nightmare. Black piranahs can be caught in the Amazon, Orinoco River Basins and beyond in South America.
How to Fish for Black Piranhas
Feeding in packs, piranhas are the hitmen of the jungle. They focus their attacks on wounded or bloodied prey and exploit those injuries by taking large chunks of flesh off with each bite. If an open wound doesn’t exist, piranhas start by immobilizing their prey, shredding their tails and fins. The vibration of lipless rattle baits and the flash of spoons, spinners, and spinnerbaits will get the attention of these ravenous fish. If the bite grows slow on these lures, a piece of cut bait on a jig will get the job done.
Black Piranhas Are the Meanest Panfish on the Planet
Imagine an angry 8-pound bluegill on steroids. Big black piranhas are drag pullers. They possess good speed and endurance and have a knack for finding and wrapping around submerged wood.
With a death chamber for a mouth, muskies inhale prey and it rarely ever comes back out. The perimeters of their jaws are lined with dagger-like teeth designed to grasp and puncture, while the tops of their mouths are covered with hundreds of needle-sharp teeth slanted back toward their throats. Their propensity to strike lures at boatside on the figure-eight gives fishing for them an added edginess. Muskies are broadly distributed throughout lakes and rivers of the mid-regions of North America.
How to Fish for Muskies
Muskies are both ambush and open-water rush feeders. They often grab their prey broadside prior to rotating it in their mouths and swallowing it head first. A wide assortment of lures will draw the ire of these apex predators, including noisy Whopper Plopper topwaters, oversized double 10 Spanky bucktails, 16-ounce soft rubber Bulldawgs, and giant HeadLock trolling lures.
How the Fish of 10,000 Casts Puts up a Fight
Muskies generate massive power and quick bursts of speed from their long, muscular frames. These fish put a spirited strain on even the heaviest gear used by today’s muskie hunters.
10. The Goliath Tigerfish
Their 32 surgically-sharp teeth, deep body built for speed and agility, incredible leaping ability, raw strength, and top-end size pushing the 150-pound mark, make the goliath tigerfish among the meanest fish on the planet. These fish are mostly found in the Congo River Basin of central Africa.
How to Fish for Goliath Tigerfish
Goliaths are rush feeders. They use their double-hinged jaws to attack prey much larger in size. Possessing teeth capable of piercing even the toughest flesh, they are fearless hunters that reportedly snack on small crocodiles, as well as anything else that crosses their path. The need to quickly cover vast areas of water to find these low-density fish make larger, deep-diving crankbaits, such as Yo-Zuri 3D Magnum Deep Divers and Manns Stretch 30s, good options.
What to Do if You Get a Goliath Tigerfish Bite
Goliath tigerfish have everything anglers could hope for in a sportfish—that includes lightning-fast strikes, blistering speed that will drain a reel of line in seconds, brute strength to put a strain on the best of equipment, along with crazy acrobatic ability to leave anglers in awe. For those anglers who dare to pursue goliaths in the tumultuous Democratic Republic of the Congo, trip lengths of 3 to 5 weeks are typical with the hope of hooking even just one or two goliaths.