People are often trying to find ways to spice up sports. When wrestling got too boring they added Hulk Hogan; baseball added Babe Ruth. Genghis Khan decided to make polo more interesting by using severed human heads in place of a wooden ball. And apparently to some, it is time to tack some excitement and danger unto freshwater recreation as well. On a recent trip to Sun Moon Lake, I think I may have found the answer.
Sun Moon Lake is nice place to relax, cycle around, or take in a boat ride, but swimming is prohibited. When I asked a friend why this was the case I received a mind stirring answer.
“Eat-people Fish.” She said.
I thought it was a joke or some sort of misunderstanding.
“You mean the People eat the fish?” I asked.
“No, no, Fish eat people.” She said, with a look of conformation, as she made a gesture of having her finger bitten off.
Right away, my imagination set off thinking of some ancient Piranha-lizard type beast that had stuck around after the ice-age, feasting on a steady supply of villagers and fisherman. But that couldn’t be it; I think I would have heard about that.
It had to be some old folktale, like the Loch Ness Monster, the Jersey Devil, or the 21 lbs. Largemouth Bass that my dad swears to have caught five times.
“I fought that thing for an hour, and got it right at my net, when the line snipped! You should have seen it.”
But that wasn’t it either. I could see in her face that she was telling the truth; she just couldn’t explain it to me, so I dropped the subject until I got home and could do some research. Sure enough, she wasn’t totally kidding—she was referring to the infamous Snake-head that has made itself known to the West in recent decades.
A fresh water fish with fangs is scary enough, but on top of that, this crazy bugger can breathe oxygen, and even WALK on land (it is really more of a flop n’ scoot maneuver, but why spoil the drama)—IT CAN WALK ON LAND! What in the world?
In some places, like Burma and Vietnam, this oddity is eaten as a delicacy, but in most other places it is considered an invasive species. With no natural predator to stop it, the snake-head can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. Most grow between two and three feet long, can weigh up to six kilograms, and feed on other fish, or frogs.
Now, my friend may have been slightly joking when she said Eat-people Fish. They don’t swarm people, take them under, and leave nothing but bones; they are, however, known to be extremely aggressive, especially when protecting their young.
And they have a lot of young.
A female can release well over 10,000 eggs at a time, and can do this up to five times a year. And if that isn’t enough–people, actual real-life people (insane obviously), have been introducing this quirky creature into new places and new environments for centuries, and the Snake-head eats it up, literally.
Now, for all those people who think that fishing is a bore—the Snake-head has even made its way to North America. Incidents and sighting have been reported in over a dozen states.
It has been the subject of an episode of River Monsters, made cameos on several TV shows, and was referred to as “Fishzilla” by National Geographic; and if left unchecked, could turn bass fishing into a blood sport, and noodling (catfishing with bare hands) into a battle to the death.
Freshwater fishing has found its Mike Tyson, and if you get one on the rope—don’t let it go. This is one of the few exceptions to the practice of “catch and release.” Keep it, eat it, do something with it, but don’t release it. Good Journeys and Happy Fishing!