Jeremy Wade, the host of Animal Planet’s “River Monsters,” confronts monsters of the murky deep for your entertainment.
He’s bathed in a swimming pool of piranhas, landed a 400 pound stingray with a “wish you were dead” sting, and now caught dozens of fish that occasionally eat men.
In season three, Wade travels to new places and finds even more exotic freshwater threats.
The Daily Caller asked him about shocking stories of electric eels, almost getting struck by lightning, and a fish with a history of biting off a certain part of the male anatomy.
What was the most dangerous fish you catalogued this season?
One of the most creepy ones was the electric eel. In a way, a fish with teeth or a fish with a stinger on its tail, you see what you’re dealing with. You can take the necessary precautions.
But the electric eel, it’s nothing special at all. It’s a long fish. It’s sort of flabby as well. It doesn’t have the strength of a true eel. It just sort of lies there.
We did actually speak to somebody, a young lad, who had watched somebody die in front of him in shallow, thigh-deep water. He was fishing with a basket. The eel shocked him. What happens first of all is you get muscular paralysis. So you fall face down in the water.
This guy who was watching, he couldn’t go to help because he might also be shocked. So he had to watch. And the detail about that which was quite creepy is he said the electric eel was wrapping itself around the chest of this other person.
The thing about electric eels is while they administer electricity they can also sense it. The way they hunt, they detect their prey by reading the small electrical currents. They produce small pulses that are like radar. They can locate other creatures in the water.
From the eel’s point of view, some large animal has attacked it, so it shocks the animal. The eel then detects the electrical energy of the heart and winds itself around it.
The other thing is people expect to find large fish, monstrous animals, in big expansive water. People are always thinking about deep water. But we found a big electric eel literally in inches of water. In a puddle, which was almost like liquid mud. They breathe air so they can survive in those conditions.
Did you have any close calls in filming this season?
We did. We always take lots of precautions. Myself and a couple of others have training on what to do in an emergency.
We were fishing in Suriname, South America, and our sound recorders were hit by lightning. The camera was rolling at the time. We weren’t actually using the boom mic at the time.
We’d been waiting for the weather to clear. Then one minute we’re filming and then there were simultaneous flashes and clashes of thunder. We all had headaches.
What was the hardest fish to catch?
They were all quite hard.
The ray was hard in that the big one that I caught actually did come on our very last day. I did not have a sniff of anything before. I had caught a small one of about 30 pounds.
It’s quite strange in a way, because when I’m not fishing for stingrays, they turn up all the time. But when I’m targeting stingray, one problem is piranha always eat the bait.
I was under a bit of pressure to fish with more than rod. Normally I fish with one rod and I’m totally focused on that one rod.
I was under a bit of pressure and to appease that I put in a second rod. But that rod wasn’t really quite up to a fish of that size. It’s was a pretty heavy line – 80 pound line. It was a sea fishing rod. But it wasn’t really up to it.
As a result, it was the longest it’s ever taken me to get a fish in. I believe in the end it was ten minutes short of four hours.
On a proper rod it would have taken a while, but inside an hour.
Where are the new places you went this season?
We went to Papua New Guinea. The story there was about something in the water biting people and particularly biting men’s testicles. We actually had a couple incident reports that people had bled to death as a result.
We talked to people there, and they said the tooth marks were exactly like a human bite.
You can imagine how freaked out people would be. There’s nothing they know of that could do that.
We also went to New Zealand, investigating a story triggered by this entry in one of Captain Cook’s journals about these eight foot long snake-like things.
We went to Japan. That was an unusual one. The Japanese have a fish-oriented culture. We thought there have to be some legends in Japan.
We honed in on something called the Kappa, a child-snatching fish likely to have hands as well.
The Japanese also have this legend that earthquakes are caused by a giant cash fish digging into the ground. Obviously we know that can’t be the case. But we did find a very intriguing connection between catfish and earthquakes.
How is season three different from the past two seasons of River Monsters?
I think season three is a bit more quirky than season two. The obvious big, dangerous fish have been picked up. So we’re obviously getting into slightly more arcane areas.
Having said that, one of the fish that we feature, which is in Argentina – another stingray – is probably the biggest truly freshwater fish I’ve caught so far.
The other stingray, it’s sort-of credentialed as a freshwater species, but they’re in estuarine waters. That’s sort of a transitional species.
But the one in Argentina was a few hundred miles from sea. It’s definitely a true freshwater species. Not quite as big but if you put that criteria of true freshwater fish, it’s probably out of all the shows the biggest fish.
How big was it?
I didn’t weigh it. Very often with a large fish if you weigh it you’re putting stress on its body by taking it from a weightless state. But we did actually find a dead one that the locals had killed.
By calculating its weight from the dead stingray, it was between 250 and 300 pounds.
What’s your personal favorite episode?
I think the Goliath Tigerfish. That’s the one that most people remember. It’s – just how unlikely that creature… It is, in effect, a giant piranha. People get very disturbed by the idea of piranhas. Ok. But this is a piranha that’s scaled up to five or six feet long potentially.