The Stuff of Nightmares: Everything to Know About the Goliath Tigerfish

Your next pet, perhaps?

The goliath tigerfish just might be the fish of our nightmares. Four times the size of a piranha with daggers for teeth and an unhinged aggression, these fish are aptly named. 

Native to the Congo River Basin in Africa, the goliath can be up to 5 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds—though there are rumors of a 154-pound one being caught.

The name 'tigerfish' refers not only to their size and ferocity, but also their appearance: The goliath tigerfish has an olive-green back and silver belly, with black stripes running down their flanks. They have 32 spear-like teeth which interlock and protrude from their jaw, making the fish look like it has a mouthful of knives.

They're a fast predator with excellent eyesight and the ability to sense low-frequency vibrations emitted by their prey. They're one of the hardest fish to catch. Natives in the Congo Basin swear that the goliath tigerfish is the only fish that is completely unafraid of crocodiles.

Oh, and in rare instances, they have been known to attack humans—and are the only freshwater fish to have done so.

A Real River Monster

There are all sorts of legends surrounding the goliath tigerfish, some more believable than others. Unsubstantiated rumors speak of a girl with harms around her waist walking into the water. The shine of the charms attracted a goliath tigerfish, ad the fish nearly bit her in half. Another rumor speaks of a goliath tigerfish leaping out of the water and biting a man's neck, killing him instantly. While a fish being able to bite a human nearly in half may seem like fantasy, natives have seen these brutes attack crocodiles and pounce on 60-pound catfish, biting them almost in half.

Fishing for the Elusive, Terrifying Goliath Tigerfish

One man who has made a living chasing giant tigerfish is Jeremy Wade, the host of River Monsters and professional angler. No one knows better than Wade what is required to hunt these massive, predatory fish. In 2010, he worked hard to perfect his goliath tigerfish setup, but was ultimately outwitted. He returned to the Congo later, and was rewarded this trip with a ferocious fight and a massive goliath tigerfish.

A goliath tigerfish survives the best in turbulent waters, where baitfish that are less powerful swimmers struggle against the current. Therefore, your gear needs to be equipped to handle the backwaters of the Congo Basic and stiff enough to stand up to the ferocious fight of a goliath tigerfish. Heavy action casting rods and reels are required. Live bait in the 12- to 14-inch range rigged on a treble hook and drifted under a large float can keep the offering steady in the current while you wait for the bite.

If you have a bit of luck, one of the hooks will set deep enough in the fish's mouth to survive the goliath's infamous head-thrashing and jumping. If the goliath tigerfish jumps, be sure to lower the rod tip to reduce shock against the line. Don't count on an easy, fast landing, but that's half the fun.

A Bucket List Fish

It's said that the goliath tigerfish puts more energy into hunting its prey than it does breeding. Studies have proven it can take between five and 14 years to double a population's size. For that reason, every one caught should be released to help ensure that these river monsters remain healthy and in adequate numbers to keep their numbers viable.

Despite that, this family of fishes is listed as "least concern" in terms of endangerment, making them an available species for intrepid anglers the world over.

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