When Fish Attack

I’m not a hunter.  But if I did hunt, I’d want to pursue a worthy adversary — an animal that could more than hold its own against me. Maybe I should take up sport fishing.

While we typically think of deep sea fishing as a pleasant day on the water drinking beer with our buddies, the sport can actually be crazy dangerous, thanks to the surprising ferocity of some sea creatures, according to a recent piece in sportfishingmag.com.  In fact, fishermen face so many different threats from their supposed prey that the magazine is doing a multi-part series with the hysterically ominous name “Sinister Seas”!

Sport fisherman routinely get bitten and stung by sea creatures.  But arguably the most serious threat is impalement.  The broadbill swordfish and blue marlin are most often at the center of such incidents. (Hey, it’s a swordfish, right?  No sense having a sword unless you’re gonna do some stabbing.)

Not surprisingly, most impalements occur as the hooked fish is being wrestled into the boat or simply photographed before release.  The victim is frequently leaning over the edge of the boat when injured.  That’s exactly what happened to the wife of a guy enjoying a deep-sea fishing expedition off Panama in 2000.  As the woman leaned overboard to shoot video of a just-caught blue marlin, the fish lunged at her, running his bill through her upper arm, into her right breast, and out of her back.  Then the marlin began shaking, nearly dragging her into the ocean.

Sometimes people get attacked by billfish while pretty much minding their own business.  An African man was just sitting in his boat when a swordfish bounded out of the water and ran its bill through his back.  A swordfish that had just been released by a Florida charter boat crew and had stabbed that boat’s captain. The fish actually swam away from the boat, but then turned around and leapt into the craft, catching the skipper in the belly.

Humans aren’t the only targets for impalement.  Sportfishing.com notes that boat hulls make a tempting target for billfish.  Swordfish are especially notorious for ramming boats, sometimes at the cost of their bill.  They’ve been known to penetrate as deep as 22 inches into wood and 4 inches into steel.   An 18-foot wooden boat carrying four men nearly sank off the coast of Australia after a marlin punched a hole in its hull.

Not all sea-going impalers are such heavyweights.  The needlefish and houndfish are thin tropical fish with skinny but sharp jaws.  They’ve put more than one person in the hospital by launching themselves out of the water and burying their jaw in the victim’s body, most devastatingly in the neck.  The damage is akin to being stabbed with a closed pair of scissors.

OK, looking back over this, maybe I won’t take up sport fishing.  It sounds terrifying, and sportfishingmag.com hasn’t even unveiled Part Two – “The Stingers.”

Yikes!

 

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