There are thousands of fish species in the world that range from tiny minnows to grander marlin. The variety is incredible with some fish being gorgeous and vibrant while others are heavily clad and armed with teeth. Fish generally keep their distance when they encounter people but here are a few you might not want to tangle with.
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The first intimidating, dangerous, and elusive fish that comes to mind is a shark. Sharks are the most common ocean predator people think of as dangerous and lurking nearby when they go swimming. Their grey color, massive size, mouthful of teeth, and reputation for violent eating habits makes them one of the scariest and spookiest fish out there.
Several species of sharks have occasionally been known to bite people but typically leave once they realize it’s not prey. The three most dangerous sharks are the great white, tiger, and bull shark which are responsible for the majority of attacks and deaths. Sharks have been known to bite humans but they also eat plenty of other strange things.
In the 16th century, a full suit of armor was pulled from the stomach of a great white, making it a safe guess that they were eaten. Some of the more unusual things that have been found in the stomach of sharks include tires, bottles, a chicken coop, and even porcupine quills. The problem with sharks is that they are apex predators with giant teeth, great eyesight, and a curiosity that is dangerous for everyone around them.
Sharks use all of their senses to hunt for prey but if they aren’t sure what something is the only way for them to investigate is with their mouth. This results in many shark attacks consisting of a bite or two which is a short event but potentially deadly. With the amount of research that has been done on sharks it's safe to say that while sharks have eaten people, we aren’t their preferred prey.
Gar have long bodies with a long toothy snout and are protected by thick scales that act as armor. There are several species of gar that inhabit fresh, brackish, and occasionally saltwater environments. The largest of the species of gar is the alligator gar which has been known to reach almost 300 pounds and eight feet long. These fish also have the unique ability to breathe air and survive in poor water conditions that would kill most fish. These huge prehistoric fish can live over 50 years and survive almost anything nature can throw at them.
Their appearance and size is intimidating to most anglers and on rare occasions these fish can be jet black. One of our guides, Captain Justin, recently caught the one pictured above and below. While the appearance of these gar can range from intimidating to terrifying, in reality they are not a threat to people. Their teeth are made for capturing and holding prey and not tearing things to pieces. This means they will not feed on things they cannot swallow and paired with their generally lethargic behavior, these fish are not interested in harming humans.
Tigerfish have been called the piranha of Africa because of their toothy appearance and the rumors that continue to spread. There are several species of tigerfish with goliath tigerfish growing the largest topping out around six feet long and 100 pounds. With tough bodies made to survive the harsh conditions and aggressive predatory behavior, they truly look horrifying.
These fish look like killers but the reports of people being eaten by them are hard to confirm. People getting bit by tigerfish is not uncommon at all with fishermen in these areas often missing fingers and toes. These fierce fish should be handled with care and respect at all times but that’s not foolproof. Tigerfish are fast and feed on anything they can catch which is easy since they can split their prey in half with one bite.
While the legends of people being killed or eaten by tigerfish have not been substantiated, it’s possible. The goliath tigerfish has more than enough power, size, and teeth to rip someone to shreds but other than a few bites a year they don’t seem very interested in doing so.
Sheepshead are a popular fish because of their aggressive and sneaky eating habits. These fish are also called convict fish because of their black and white stripes that resemble old school prison clothes. While maybe not as intimidating as the other fish on this list, sheepshead have a mouthful of teeth. Their teeth look like they belong on a farm animal as opposed to an inshore gamefish.
Sheepshead are surprisingly good at eating bait cleanly off the hook without being detected. Whatever bait you’re using, make sure it’s firmly attached to the hook. If you have been fishing for sheepshead, you know these fish can punch above their weight. While these fish are hardly a threat to people I don't hear any volunteers to get bit.
Updated on May 17, 2023
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