Nasty Fish Faces
Keith “Catfish” Sutton has fished throughout the Western Hemisphere, targeting monsters with terrible personalities and looks that shock, the kind that can kick your butt if they don’t maim or kill you first. They rip flesh, smash boats and haunt dreams–Catfish’s picks for the meanest, ugliest fish on the planet.
Alligator Gar Ugliness scale: 9.0. Meanness scale: 9.9. Think Polaris missile with teeth. This high-jumping, armored-covered leviathan of Southern lakes and rivers sometimes exceeds 8 feet and 300 pounds. Looking into one’s tooth-studded maw is like staring death in the eye. If you mess with this bad boy, be sure your life insurance is paid up.
White Sturgeon Ugliness scale: 9.7. Meanness scale: 9.0. Weighing up to a ton, this Goliath fries drags, busts rods and snaps 100-pound line like sewing thread. It’s an ugly lout, too, with armored skin, a bulbous nose, a Hitler-like mustache of barbels and a vacuum-cleaner mouth big enough to suck up softballs. Hook one and you better hold tight. This bottom sucker flies. The hook’s sting prompts repeated jumps that will leave you breathless.
Flathead Catfish Ugliness scale: 9.3. Meanness scale: 8.5. The flathead’s unsightliness doesn’t stop a devoted fraternity of anglers from pursuing these brutes. Hundred-pounders are possible, and a fish half that size can pummel an angler till his arms tremble and his legs turn to Jello. The unprepared may see rods snapped like dry spaghetti or stand in amazement after fishing combos are yanked from their hands. Some hard-core folks get their kicks catching these beasts with bare hands.
Bowfin Ugliness scale: 8.9. Meanness scale: 9.2. If bowfins grew as big as alligators, people wouldn’t be safe in the water. Even so, you better use care when handling this mean-and-nasty or you’re likely to come away without any fingers. Nicknames include mudfish, dogfish and grinnel, but more vulgar monikers often are used by frazzled fishermen with broken lines, mauled lures and shattered poles.
Piraiba Ugliness scale: 8.0. Meanness scale: 10.0. Stand by a highway, cast a hook and snag a passing 18-wheeler. Now try to land it. That’s what it’s like to hook the piraiba, a South American catfish known to surpass 600 pounds and 12 feet. In Brazil’s jungle rivers, people build stockaded enclosures in which to bathe and wash clothes because they fear being eaten by these monstrous predators. The piraiba’s savage mien inspires this dread, particularly the cavernous maw, custom-made for swallowing swimmers.
Giant Trahira Ugliness scale: 9.8. Meanness scale: 9.0. Brazil’s giant trahira looks like something that should be chasing Sigourney Weaver around a spaceship. This little-known fish weighs up to 50 pounds and has chompers that can bite through nails. Think “nuclear walleye” and you’ll have a good picture. When hooked, this evil-looking primitive does a tarpon-on-steroids impersonation, jumping repeatedly. You’ll need heavy tackle to drag it out of the snag-filled jungle backwaters it inhabits, but chances are, even that won’t survive a brutal battle with one of these raging bulls.
Black Piranha Ugliness scale: 9.0. Meanness scale: 10.0. “They are the most ferocious fish in the world,” Theodore Roosevelt wrote of piranhas. “They will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast.” Mean doesn’t begin to describe these vicious, sharp-toothed predators. I’ve seen them bite through 12/0 treble hooks and take off fingertips with ease. Never hold one near a body part you want to keep.
Payara Ugliness scale: 8.5. Meanness scale: 9.2. They don’t call it “Dracula fish” for nothing. This South American favorite has the countenance of a vampire, with two fangs as long as your little fingers erupting from its lower jaw. With needle-sharp tips and knifelike edges, these dentures are perfect for impaling the payara’s favorite dinner: live piranhas. And you know any fish that eats piranhas must be one tough customer.
Lingcod Ugliness scale: 9.4. Meanness scale: 8.7. Saltwater fish get mean and ugly, too. Consider the lingcod, covered with brownish-red blotches that make it look like it has some kind of skin disorder. If you’re tough enough to handle one, and it doesn’t snap your line, steer clear of the huge, gaping mouth studded with big teeth. The species’ scientific name, Ophiodon elongatus, means “long snake tooth,” an appropriate appellation.
Stingray Ugliness scale: 8.8. Meanness scale: 8.2. Some folks say stingrays are beautiful, graceful creatures. Graceful, maybe. Beautiful, not. These flattened relatives of sharks look like flying saucers with mouths. If you’re foolish enough to drag one in the boat with you, you could find out the hard way the dangers of the venomous, serrated spine on the fish’s whip-like tail. A maddened ray can drive this weapon clear through your leg or chest. And as the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin taught us, this can prove fatal.

Catfish Sutton’s top 10 meanest, ugliest fish on the planet! These fish have a face (and personality) only a mother could love.