There’s no shortage of dangerous creatures in the waters of the South American jungle, but one of the most impressive and fearsome is the wolf fish.
These prehistoric-looking fish are reminiscent of the bowfin of North America, with bony heads and a mouthful of teeth. They can grow to massive sizes, with some reaching over 80 lbs. The wolf fish is found throughout Central and South America and can live in anything from drainage ditches to larger rivers.
Like many predatory fish, wolf fish are sought by anglers for their aggressive takes and strong fights. Although they used to be mostly caught by accident while fishing for other species, some outfitters now offer guided trips targeting them. They’ll take a variety of flies, from poppers to streamers, and are sometimes so eager to eat that they’ll miss a fly. These creatures are very unique so with that here are 7 things you never knew about the wolf fish presented by Scientific Anglers.
1. The Wolf Fish is Not a Single Species
Although generally referred to as the wolf fish, there are actually multiple species with different characteristics. Some of the smaller species max out around 10 inches and feed mostly on small baitfish and insects. The largest, the Giant Wolf Fish, can be several feet long and is known as one of the most voracious predators in the water.
2. They Can “Breathe” Air
Like both the bowfin and the arapaima, wolf fish can “breathe” air to make up for low oxygen levels in the water. When fishing for them, it’s not uncommon to see or hear them come to the surface to gulp air. This clever adaptation allows them to live in places other fish can’t, like murky ponds, swamps, and drainage ditches.
3. They Have Dog-Like Teeth
If you’ve ever seen the dagger-like teeth of a pike or the serrated edges of a shark’s tooth, you know there are plenty of well-equipped predatory fish out there. However, one type of tooth you may not have encountered before is the canine-like tooth of the wolf fish. These thick, boney teeth are perfect for preventing prey from escaping and are followed by another set of teeth in the wolf fish’s throat. For the anglers interested in chasing these fish, a set of pliers and wire leaders are a must. We prefer the Scientific Anglers Premium Figure 8 Wire Leader.
4. They are Frequently Kept as Pets
Since the wolf fish is known for its aggressive demeanor, it’s a little surprising that many people keep them as pets. This doesn’t mean that wolf fish in tanks are tame, by any means. They’ll attack pretty much anything that gets in the water, including hands and nets, making feeding and tank cleaning quite the experience. It’s also essential to keep the aquarium covered since they’ll try to jump out if given the chance.
5. They Have Been Known to Move Over Land
Considering that wolf fish are able to gulp air and often try to escape from their aquariums, it’s not too surprising that there are accounts of them surviving on land for brief periods and moving from one water body to another. This is a useful trait for some species of fish, since it allows them to escape small patches of water that dry up. For people, though, it can be alarming. There’s an account of a woman who was planning to keep a wolf fish after a day on the water, so she killed it and put it in a bag. When she came back later, she found that the wolf fish was actually still alive and trying to escape.
6. They are Edible
Looking at a wolf fish, they don’t look particularly appetizing. Big scales, boney heads, and a drab coloration are a far cry from some of the more ornate species. Despite this, they are edible and people in Central and South America do eat them. If you ever get the chance to try one, be warned: they have a lot of bones you’ll need to pick out before digging in.
7. They are More Ferocious Than Piranhas
Piranhas are often considered the quintessential predatory fish of tropical rivers. In reality, though, most of their reputation is unwarranted and they usually feed opportunistically on crustaceans, insects, or even seeds. The wolf fish, on the other hand, lurks in dense vegetation, waiting to ambush prey as it comes past. Although most stories aren’t supported by strong evidence, there have been tales of large animals and even humans being ambushed by wolf fish after getting in the water. Regardless of whether the claims are true, the fact that they exist at all says something about the attitude of the wolf fish.
Article from Katie Burgert, you can follow along with Katie on her Instagram @fishuntamed.