Catch A Tiger By the Toe

While fishing wasn’t the exclusive reason that we just spent three weeks in Africa, it was a big enticement to make the trip across both the big pond and the equator. Tigerfish look like a cross between a bonefish and a striped bass, with vampire-like teeth, and I wanted to see how they’d compare to peacock bass, redfish and the other species that I’ve chased in recent years.

The tigers didn’t disappoint in terms of their athleticism – they have rock-hard mouths, hit like a linebacker, run 40 feet into swift current in no time at all, and jump 6 feet in the air with ease. However, the very things that make them a formidable opponent left us frustrated and dismayed more often than not. For every five tigers that actually got hooked, perhaps one would make it into the boat.

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The first would be on for a few cranks and then inexplicably let go of the lure. The second would seem to be hooked solidly, and then halfway back to the boat come unbuttoned. The third would hammer the lure, then jump face-high and spit it back in your face. The fourth would stay hooked through all of those hurdles and then pull free as our guide tried to net it. Only number five failed to exercise one of these many escape routes and ended up in the net. Even then, Hanna had an 11 pounder that worked its way through a hole in the net in an effort to get off. Fortunately, our guide was able to re-net that one and get it into the boat. These statistics do not include the many fish that knocked the snot out of our lures but weren’t hooked for even a second.

With each one we landed, we did not celebrate as much as we exhaled a sigh of relief that it hadn’t pulled a Houdini-like escape.

I’m still not sure which is more frustrating, muskie fishing where you see lots of fish that never bite, or tigerfishing, where they bite but don’t end up in a photo.