Gangsters of the Flats: Watch These Powerful, Bird-Eating Saltwater Fish in Action
Giant trevally are a sight-caster's dream and a seabird's worst nightmare
Some fish are straight-up savages, and the tackle-busting giant trevally is one of them. For proof, look no further than this re-published clip from BBC’s Blue Planet II, which shows the powerful seabird-eating fish on a remote saltwater flat in the Indian Ocean.
Filmed back in 2015, the footage offers a glimpse of how voracious and effective GTs are when hunting in the shallows. Local fishermen in the Indian and South Pacific Oceans had witnessed the silvery brutes eating birds—both on the wing and off the surface—before, but this was the first time it was ever captured on camera.
“It started as a fisherman’s tale—this [90 lb.] pugnacious bulldog of a fish that would leap out of the water and grab sooty terns in mid air,” BBC producer Miles Barton explained in a 2018 interview. “There was no hard evidence—no stills photography or video. But it sounded plausible so four of us mounted an expedition to a remote atoll in the Seychelles in September 2015.”
The resulting slow-motion footage shows the huge fish launching clear out of the water to grab the terns out of mid-air. The giant trevallys don’t always succeed, and the acrobatic birds narrowly escape most of these airborne attacks. But for the chicks caught unawares on the water’s surface, Barton explained, it was a different story altogether.
“When the adults did fly down to drink, they would do so very quickly, They never sat on the water … It was like they knew what it was. Whereas the chicks didn’t know and would have to be attacked once to learn.”
Fishing for Giant Trevally
Thanks in part to the above footage and the ever-broadening horizons of the angling community, the interest in fishing for GT’s has exploded in recent years. These apex predators are big, aggressive, and incredibly powerful, averaging more than 30 pounds and swimming up to 37 miles an hour. They also like to hunt, either solo or in packs, on shallow clearwater flats—prime spots for wading anglers to cast to them. Because of their cutthroat hunting style—and their voracity when inhaling a well-placed fly or lure—they’ve earned the nickname “gangsters of the flats.”
It doesn’t hurt that they inhabit some of the most gorgeous tropical waters on the planet. Ranging throughout the Indo-Pacific region, some of the more popular fishing spots for GTs include postcard locations like the Christmas and Cook Islands, the Maldives, and, of course, the Seychelles.
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Fishing for GTs is not for the faint of heart. The fish have a reputation for punishing anglers and blowing up rods. But for hardcore sight-casters who want to test their mettle (and their tackle) in far-flung locales, chasing giant trevally in the Seychelles is hard to beat. Just don’t forget the oversized tern flies.