Jeremy Wade’s 10 best rivers for catching monster fish

Jeremy Wade’s 10 best rivers for catching monster fish

Landing rows of razor teeth with fish attached is all in a day's work for the host of TV's most extreme fishing show
jeremy wade monster fish
Jeremy Wade, extreme angler, with one of his "monsters."

Jeremy Wade -- traveler, TV presenter, insane angler.

As host of TV documentary series “River Monsters,” Wade travels the globe to seek out things that populate fishermen’s tales and non-fishermen's nightmares.

"It all starts with the fish," says Wade. "In order to hook our viewers it has to be potentially dangerous to humans, engaging everyone's hard-wired fascination with predators.”

That's not easy, even for those who don't see gaping mouths full of razor-sharp teeth as something to avoid.

"Most rivers have lost most of their giant fish in just the last 50 to 100 years, mainly as a result of overfishing,” Wade says. “Mere remoteness is no longer any guarantee that 'monsters' still inhabit a river, nor are old accounts of spectacular catches."

So which rivers does he recommend for the best monsters with fins? See below.

If you're keen to follow in his rubber bootsteps, take note that these aren't regular fishing trips.

"We travel by whatever means is appropriate: vehicle, boat, light aircraft," he says. "If there are hotels along the way, that's great, but if there's no infrastructure we'll camp, in tents or hammocks.”


Congo River, Republic of the Congo

goliath tiger fish jeremy wadeJeremy Wade with a goliath tigerfish pulling its best smile.

Count on being the only fisherman from outside the area if you get to the banks of the Congo River, which flows east to west through the country.  

Jeremy Wade says: “Think Goliath tigerfish that grow to 100 pounds and man-sized piranha. Goliath tigerfish have teeth like those of a piranha, but they grow to the size of a man. The fish I caught on camera had teeth the same length as those on a thousand-pound great white shark.”

Getting there: Fly to Brazzaville then arrange own transport upriver with camping gear and supplies.

Teles Pires River, Brazil 

jeremy wade fishingFrom the gaping mouth of the churning Teles Pires comes this catfish. There's a great diversity of species in the the Tele Pires in central Brazil, including various types of large catfish (red-tail, piraiba, tiger-shovelnose) and peacock bass.

Falls and rapids punctuate the river’s flow and construction of a controversial dam is in the pipeline.

Dramatic falls and rapids, not fished by commercial or subsistence fishermen,” says Wade.

Getting there: Domestic flight to Alta Floresta, followed by a light plane ride to Pousada Mantega Lodge.

Okavango River, Botswana 

jeremy wade monster fishA slightly more manageable tigerfish. Aside from close to 100 types of fish and 150 of amphibians and reptiles in and around the Okavango River and Delta, the area’s bird life comprises a whopping 500 species.

“Stunning wetland with abundant bird life in the midst of the Kalahari desert," says Wade. "The tigerfish can weigh 10 pounds-plus and are catchable by fly-fishing.”

Getting there: Fly to Maun then transfer to chosen fishing camp.

Ebro River, Spain

wells catfish jeremy wadeA man-sized catfish hauled from the murky depths.

The warm and nutrient-rich waters of the Ebro River in northeastern Spain have allowed the European wels catfish to thrive. They can weigh more than 200 pounds.

“Warm, rich water has created a unique monster nursery for a recent interloper [the European wels catfish],” says Wade.

Getting there: Drive from Barcelona.

Trinity River, Texas, United States 

aligator gar fishingThe alligator gar isn't one you'd want to come nose to nose with in your snorkel. The catch here is the bizarre-looking alligator gar, a long-snouted variety that's the largest freshwater-only fish in North America and can bulk up to 200 pounds at maturity.

“A ribbon of wilderness winding through Texas," says Wade. "Some parts remind me of Amazon creeks.”

Getting there: Find a ramp for your boat and get in, but watch your prop on the stumps.

Mae Klong River, Thailand 

jeremy wadeLooking out for the giant whipray on the Mae Klong. Superstition has helped the giant whipray, a type of stingray, survive in the Mae Klong in western Thailand.

“The giant whipray survives here because the locals leave it alone, partly because ultra-strong equipment is needed to bring it in and partly because of its reputation as a bringer of bad luck,” says Wade.

Getting there: By road from Bangkok, then fish by boat in an exotic urban setting.

Delger Muron River, Mongolia 

jeremy wadeDuck-stuffed salmon, a possible menu item.

Taimen, the largest member of the salmon family, present a good challenge here in Mongolia's popular fly-fishing river -- they’re known to attack ducks and rodents swimming through the water with their sharp teeth, not to mention the odd distracted angler.

Wade's comment: “Taimen, lenok trout and grayling are the fish found here, surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery.”

Getting there: Overland to the river, then drift downstream by raft, camping en route.

River Nile, Uganda 

nile perch"Who's hungry?" The wildlife in northwest Uganda is in recovery phase after being depleted by poachers and troops during the reign of Idi Amin.

Known locally as the Victoria Nile, the waters contain Nile perch up to 100 pounds apiece.

“In the Murchison Falls National Park, the river is protected from commercial fishing,” says Wade.

Getting there: By road from Kampala, then fish from boat or shore.

Columbia River, Oregon and Washington, United States 

White sturgeon below the silver skies and mirrored surface of the Columbia River. In the river that forms the border between Oregon and Washington states, white sturgeon can weigh in at a hefty 300 pounds.

“The once super-abundant sturgeon have been brought back from the (near) dead by enlightened management," says Wade.

Getting there: Drive from Portland, Oregon, and fish the lower river, below the Bonneville Dam, by boat.

Ramganga River, India 

extreme fishingRelative peace and quiet as Wade fishes on the Ramganga. From the high Kumaon Himalayas region in northern India this tributary of the mighty Ganges flows. Goonch catfish and golden mahseer are the monsters of this river.

“The Indian mountains are a world away from the crowded, stifling plains,” says Wade.

Getting there: Access by road from New Delhi.

The fifth season of River Monsters with Jeremy Wade will show on Animal Planet in spring 2013.
"River Monsters" (the book) is now out in the UK in paperback (Orion, £8.99/US$14.42).