If fishing is one of your favorite pastimes, then a fair warning, Goliath tigerfish is going to be a bit of a challenge. Not only is it fearsome to behold, it is also an equally fearsome predator. It is fast, it is strong, it has exceptionally fine-tuned predatory senses, and it is not afraid. Its scientific name is Hydrocynus Goliath and belongs to the genus Hydrocynus which contains five species known as African Tiger fish, popular for their fierce predatory behavior. It has gained a mythical reputation among anglers because of its aggressive predatory nature and strength.
The Goliath tigerfish is the largest member of the tigerfish clan, known to grow as large as 5 feet and weigh over 110 pounds, and is native to the Congo River Basin, Lualaba River, Upemba, and Lake Tanganyika in Africa.
This large African predator is a freshwater fish with an olive colored back and a silvery underside. What’s striking about the Goliath tigerfish is its astounding size and weight, almost looking as if it grew on steroids, and it uses its razor-like teeth to tear its prey apart. The lifespan of this fish is unknown in the wild, but in captivity it can live as many as 10 to 15 years.
It is a very fierce predator, with a mouth full of 32 dagger-like teeth and a very muscular physique that enables it to hunt efficiently. According to the locals, it isn’t even afraid of crocodiles and actually eats the smaller ones.
According to British extreme angler, Jeremy Wade, its “teeth are incredibly sharp and are about the same length as a great white shark’s”. Its mouth doesn’t have any lips with the teeth set along the edge of its jaw fitting into distinct grooves. It preys on any fish it can overpower including smaller members of its own species. Hence, small crocodiles, perhaps, might not come as a surprise. Many incidents have been reported in Congo in which it attacked even humans. Needless to say, it’s a bad idea to have them in a domestic aquarium.
The Goliath tigerfish loves to hunt in turbulent waters in which other fish find it difficult to swim, making them vulnerable prey. It also has an excellent eyesight and can detect low-frequency vibrations from the prey.
Goliath tigerfish is an excellent swimmer and is used to hunting in packs. When fish that are less strong swimmers unwittingly enter turbulent water, it attacks. It usually starts by circling its prey before dealing its blow. It is even known to have preyed on a 60-pound catfish, tearing it up into two pieces. Its senses have also evolved to assist its predatory activities. It has an air sac inside that vibrates when a fish moves nearby, much like how our ear drums experience the pressure changes in the air as sound, and along with an excellent eyesight to go with it.
Catching a Goliath tigerfish is quite difficult and its movements are so strong that a fishing rod cannot stand the strain unless it’s heavy-duty. Even then, one has to be skillful and patient with winding the line.
If you are going to catch yourself a Goliath tigerfish, you should remember that it’s very fast. It will attack both fishing lures and live bait, and if you do manage to get the hook to set deep enough in its mouth, it’s going to put up a tough fight thrashing about in the water to get rid of it. Moreover, if you are not careful it will snap the angler’s line and would probably take off with the tackle. The fish is so violent, in fact, that the fishing safari promoters actually make you read a cautionary treatise about it before taking you on the fishing trip.
However, being such a powerful predator, it spends more energy hunting than breeding and it takes from 5 to 14 years for its population to reach twice the number. Indiscriminate fishing of Goliath tigerfish might disturb the local ecosystem, so Animal Planet recommends throwing it back into the water when caught.
Here is a video from River Monsters with Jeremy Wade catching and showing the big fish.