Monster Encounters

May 28 2013 Published by under [Etc]

Yesterday the show River Monsters ran an episode that began at Lake of the Ozarks in mid-Missouri (my in-laws have a place there) and ended in Oklahoma rivers. Apparently, I have swam with monsters.

The episode begins with a family entering a boat for a ride on the Lake. The wind whips up foul waves, and the craft capsized, leaving four passengers missing and presumed drowned. A distraught father hired divers to recover the body, but they found nothing in the murky muddy waters of the Lake. What could have disposed of her body so quickly?

Jeremy Wade begins talking to locals about large fish that dwell on the bottom of the Lake (one guy has the most amazing mullet). He proceeds to attempt to catch some big catfish since both blue cats and flatheads can exceed 100 pounds. The fish he brings in on rod and reel do not meet the criteria for monsters that consume human corpses. He then snags a spoonbill, a plankton-eating fish of the Lake that can get big enough to scare a diver when it comes out of the turbid muddy depths, even though this fish could not engulf a corpse.

Click to learn more at National Geographic

To learn more about the strength of these fish, he then heads to Oklahoma to noodle them. For those of you new to the term, noodlin' (always drop the G) refers to getting your hand into the fish's mouth, then grabbing it by the gills and pulling it up. You may need to go underwater. You will have to shove your hand into the holes where big cats hide, even though you cannot see if there is a fish or something else in there. Something else could be an alligator snapping turtle, a critter that would find your live flesh delicious.

Below Jeremy Wade goes over the finer points of noodlin'. His team brought up 50-55 pound catfish using this technique.

As someone who grew up around the lakes and streams of the Ozarks, I have been interested in the local fish and animals. I find the show quite interesting, given the locations he explores and the interesting variety of river and lake critters he shows the audience. He practices catch-and-release; while I am sure the fish would prefer not to get caught, showing them to people demystifies them, making them far less frightening.

I object to the term "monsters."

Even a 150 pound flathead that consumes a human corpse is NOT A MONSTER. It's a fish, and it evolved to dispose of dead and rotting stuff on the bottom of bodies of water. Yes, it has to get unusually large to take a human head in its mouth, but that just means it's a very successful fish. Other fish in the show may kill and eat children, but they are predators. That is what they do, usually to other creatures. In their minds, humans are nothing special (although the lack of fur and claws and shells may make us a rare delicacy).

Even Animal Planet's more sensational offerings ARE NOT MONSTERS. If we ever do find Bigfoot (or the creature in Loch News or a mermaid), then it will no longer be a monster, the stuff of legends. It will merely be another creature inhabiting the planet earth, even though it might endanger you during a wilderness encounter.

All the real monsters are people, those who bomb, shoot, kidnap, traffic, rape, etc.





2 responses so far

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Because I am an ichthyologist, I have watched most of the River Monster shows. I would prefer them to be more straight forward expositions about the fishes of this river or that, but I suppose the danger to humans thrust draws some viewers. I'm most familiar with fishes of the USA Midwest and Gulf Coast, Central America, and Northern South America. I haven't seen anything I didn't know about in those areas, but I have seen some interesting Asiatic and African fish with which I am less familiar.

    I have a long history as an aquarist. I don't watch the "Tanked" show very much because I think aquariums are serious fun, so I don't enjoy the foolishness aspects of the Tanked show.

  • WhizBang says:

    I like watching what they come up with on Tanked, but that has little to do with the fish.

    The creatures on River Monsters are fascinating, but once you know what they are, they really aren't monsters. I understand sensationalism to attract viewers, but he's catching fish,ot dredging up zombies.

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