Editor’s note: The Idaho Statesman’s annual fishing guide printed March 8. This column set up a series of five stories about some of Idaho’s biggest, baddest fish — and the anglers who pursue them. Here are those stories: tiger muskies, Mackinaw trout, Chinook salmon, flathead catfish, white sturgeon.
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? President? Movie star? Super Bowl-winning quarterback? Rich and powerful CEO of a Fortune 500 company?
Many of those dream jobs crossed my mind as a child. But today, I can answer that question with 100 percent certainty. If I could have any job in the world, it would be Jeremy Wade’s gig as the host of Animal Planet’s “River Monsters.”
Wade is a British fisherman and biologist who travels the globe in search of the largest, most ferocious fish species on the planet. Many of these fish stand accused of attacking and killing humans — and some are found guilty as charged.
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Unlike shows where hunters come up empty in their search for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, Wade almost always captures the animal in question. And some of his catches are jaw-dropping.
Some of my favorite monsters include the giant arapaima, a serpent-like beast of the Amazon that can grow to 14 feet in length; the goliath tigerfish, a 5-foot African torpedo equipped with devastating, interlocking teeth; and the terrifying Goonch catfish, a 6-foot assassin that has acquired a taste for human flesh by eating the remains of burned funeral pyres in India’s Kali River.
These real-life monsters are truly the stuff of legends. But you don’t have to travel halfway around the globe to tangle with a river monster. There are giants in our own backyard.
Idaho doesn’t have arapaima, but it does have a prehistoric counterpart in the white sturgeon, the largest freshwater species on our continent. I caught my first sturgeon through the ice this winter at the Schwartz Pond in Parma. It was about 4 1/2 feet long and likely weighed 50 pounds. The strength and power was unlike anything I’ve ever felt on the end of my line — and to think, they can grow more than twice that size.
You won’t find goliath tigerfish in Idaho waters, but you can catch something almost as toothy and scary: the tiger muskie. These giant predators are equipped with bigger teeth than any other Idaho species. They aren’t native, but they are stocked in select lakes to help control fish populations. I’ve never fished for muskies, but I saw one once while fishing at Little Payette Lake. I froze in my tracks, mesmerized, as it stealthily slid by.
Idaho isn’t home to any man-eating catfish, either, but the flathead grows big enough to pull a person under if it felt so inclined. With their enormous heads and mottled green skin, flatheads even bear an eerie resemblance to the killer Goonch — minus the rows of razor-sharp teeth. I have fished for flatties in Brownlee Reservoir, and when they finally emerge from the deep, their massive size and alien-like appearance is enough to give you a scare.
These are just a few of Idaho’s resident river monsters. We haven’t even mentioned the mighty Chinook salmon. I’ve had a few battles with those, and pound-for-pound, they might be the strongest fish that swims. And what about the mysterious Mackinaw trout? These deep-lake dwellers only come to the surface if they’re on the end of a fishing line.
This year’s Idaho Outdoors Fishing Guide is dedicated to Idaho monsters, and some of the intrepid anglers who hunt them. Read on if you dare.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.