40 Meanest Fish

There are certainly different qualities that make fish worthy of pursuit. Some are beautiful, some are delicious … but then there are the fish that are just mean. There's something about chasing a creature you're partially afraid of that's exhilarating. We ranked the fiercest 40 fish based on a few factors. The first was their fighting ability pound for pound. The second was what danger they posed to you and your tackle. The third was how menacing they looked, and lastly their size (also, we included sharks, which are not technically fish but they're pretty dang close). Here's our 40 fearsome fish. See which one took top honors at number 1 and let the debate begin. 40) Swordfish: They can grow to 15 feet and 1.5 tons. They're a perfectly designed brawling machine. It uses its bill to kill its prey. Their majestic and mean, and tremendous fighters when hooked.
39) Roosterfish: There's something menacing about seeing that comb cut through the waves as a rooster slices through the ocean effortlessly chasing bait. They can exceed four feet in length and grow to more than 100 pounds. You'd better bring your best gear if you're going after them, and even then they might leave you muttering. They're muscular, fast and vicious. Photo: Halpochromis
38) Striped Bass: A big striper will chase down a bluefish. That takes tenacity. They'll destroy your best lures, inhale your eels, mangle your mackerel, and swim right into crashing breakers to take a bait. There's no doubt once you've seen a school of stripers mauling a bunch of baitfish they've got pinned against a jetty or sandbar... they're mean.
37) Largemouth Bass: A ten-pound bass will have no trouble mangling even your strongest spinnerbait. They'll crush topwater lures, fight you every inch of the way to the boat, make violent jumps when hooked, and have been known to attack ducklings, mice and rats if they get hungry enough.
36) Bonefish: These saltwater speedsters might be some of the hardest fighting fish around. They make long steady runs that feel like they're never going to stop. photo: bria.gratwicke
35) Carp: They look harmless, but hook into one and you'd better hold on. These fish make long fast runs that will test even the best drag washers.
34) Sturgeon: These gigantic leaping beasts look like a cross between a reptile and a dinosaur. They can grow to 18 feet and put on a show when hooked. They are tremendous fighters.
33) King Salmon: The largest salmon can grow to more than 100 pounds, although fish bigger than 70 pounds are rare. They're aggressive, highly sought-after, hard fighting, and just plain mean. photo: izikm
32) Golden Dorado: This South American river fish has powerful jaws and sharp teeth. They travel in schools eating whatever swims, and when they're hooked they make fantastic acrobatic displays. Photo: David Morimoto
31) Jack Crevalle: Anyone who has ever seen a blitzing school of jacks knows it looks like an underwater barroom brawl, and these fish don't lose. They're lean, mean machines and if you can put a lure or bait in front of them, it's a guaranteed good time. Photo: Kevin Lawver
30) Giant Trevally: This enormous member of the jack family can grow to 100 pounds and routinely devours eels, lobsters, and other fish. They're prized for their fighting ability.
29) Smallmouth Bass: No, they're not attacking humans, but if I were a perch I can't think of anything I'd want to avoid more than a 6-pound smallmouth. These freshwater battlers are all muscle, they never slow down, and they fight as hard as any freshwater fish that swims.
28) Steelhead: Tie into a real, sea-run steelhead and then try to stop it. These things just go and go, which is why they're so sought after. They are some of the best fighting fish around.
27) Alligator Gar: They're not terribly ferocious, but just look at these things. Anything that inspires the name "alligator," deserves to be on the mean list. They can grow to 10 feet and 300 pounds. I've read that they're not that aggressive, but at the same time, look at them. Would you want to find out the hard way? Photo: Charles and Clint
26) Tarpon: Don't be fooled by their grace and agility, these things are nasty. They're like an ancient underwater dinosaur, and I wouldn't want to be a mullet that got on the wrong side of a 200-pounder.
25) Tigerfish: These African fish inhabit the Nile River and they look like a striper with fangs. They're aggressive, and are considered the African equivalent of the Pirahna. Schools will attack land animals that wander into the water for a drink. They can and will tackle prey their own size. They've even been known to attack humans.
24) Brown Trout: I'm not talking about the 11-inch brownies hiding in stream pockets. I'm talking about the 11-pound, perch-devouring, ugly slobs that wait until nightfall to come out and target their prey. A big brown is a different animal than the hatchery fish that get dumped from the stocking truck, and it's a lot meaner.
23) Snakehead Fish: They're creepy, they're invasive and they're ugly as anything that swims. They start eating fish larvae when they're an inch long. When there's not enough oxygen, they can breath air, and even survive out of water in moist conditions. You don't want them in your favorite pond or lake. Photo: Wie146
22) Marlin: There's not much known about how exactly they feed, but some scientists believe they stun their prey by using their bill for a lateral strike. Getting hit by the bill of a 1,000-pound fish swimming at 60-plus miles per hour must feel like you're a fastball that got left over the plate to Barry Bonds. Anything that swims around with a bat on its head and beats its prey is mean.
21) Northern Pike: A big pike will suspend almost motionless in the water, waiting for its prey. Then, with stunning speed, it will dart out and cripple whatever it can get its teeth on, from perch to bass to ducklings. It will hold it in its jaws sideways, immobilize it with its back teeth, flip it headfirst, and polish it off. Sunfish must never know what hit them. Battle a 30-pound pike and you might not ever want to do anything else.
20) Wels Catfish: These horrendous looking fish can grow to weights of more than 300 pounds. They are capable of swallowing a human being whole. There's tales of man-eating catfish that date back to the 15th century. They've been found with human remains in their stomachs. It's not a confirmed maneater, but I'd still keep my distance.
19) Goliath Grouper: They are enormous, they are ugly, they are mean. Goliath grouper can grow to sizes exceeding 800 pounds. They're known to eat baby turtles. That's just... mean.
18) Amberjack: Amberjacks, or "AJs" are as tough, pound-for-pound, as anything you'll hook up with. It feels like you tied into an elevator on its way down through a free-fall. And when you think you want to curl up in a corner of the boat and throw up after trying to wench in a big one, they'll see the boat and really hit the gas.
17) Nile Perch: The name is the only thing this beast has in common with the little yellow harmless fish you caught as a kid. They can grow to six feet and 500 pounds. They're enormous, and eat anything they can. Photo: Jeffcurrier.com
16) Hammerhead Shark: Their alien-like appearance makes them especially spooky. They've been known to attack humans. They love to eat sting rays and squid, they can get larger than 20 feet long. I've seen video of a hammerhead chasing a lemon shark. It swam under a flats boat, and snapped the guide's pole like a toothpick and never slowed down.
15) Peacock Bass: When a peacock bass hits your topwater lure, it looks like you reeled over a grenade on the water's surface. They're well known for their tackle-busting ability. They're the Rambo of bass, lurking in the amazon, central and South America, and parts of Florida. They're explosive and tenacious. They're mean. Photo:LuisGomez111
14) Wahoo: Hook into a wahoo and you'll think someone just shot it out of a gun. These fish are renowned for their first run, and they are one of the fastest fish in the sea, swimming as fast as 50 miles per hour.
13) Bluefin Tuna: If you've ever seen a school of bluefin crashing bluefish, you have no doubts about their disposition. They are enormous metallic pelagic tanks. They swim long distances at high speeds, they reach sizes greater than 1,000 pounds and there might be more busted drags from giant tuna than any other fish that swims. If you've never tied into a tuna, just imagine hooking a treble hook to the bumper of a stock car, putting the pedal down, and trying to hold on.
12) Pirarucu: These things are downright nasty. They can grow to 10 feet and 400 pounds and they've been known to leap from the water to eat birds. It can open its mouth so suddenly that it creates an underwater vacuum, sucking fish into its jaws with an audible 'pop.'
11) Thresher Shark: There are few sights as envigorating as seeing the whip-like tail of a big thresher cruising through your slick. Threshers can grow to 20 feet, and their tails can be the lengths of their bodies. They used the tail to stun their prey, which include bluefish. Anything that swims around stunning 15-pound fish with it's body-length tail is just plain mean.
10) Pirahna: Don't be fooled by their size, these fish, typically less than a foot long, are voracious flesh eaters. Their jaws are built for rapid puncture and the shearing of flesh. Tribes used their super-sharp teeth to make weapons. When one is hooked, other pirahnas will quickly attack it. They wreak havoc on fishing gear, cutting nets, lines and and mutilating anything else you hook before you are able to land it. They're 100 % mean. Photo: Alexdi
9) Muskellunge: This might be the meanest freshwater fish that swims. They grow to five feet, they'll eat anything they can get their teeth on. Ducklings, muskrats...nothing is safe in muskie-infested waters. They'll eat something that's 30 percent of their total length. That's like a grown man eating a 2-foot sub, that was alive, by attacking it from the side and polishing it off in one gulp. There's a reason muskie nuts keep casting for these voracious game fish.
8) Goonch Catfish: This fish can grow to six feet and 150 pounds and is native to India and Nepal. It's rumored to attack humans, and has been accused of the death of an 18-year-old Nepali. It's also believed to eat the half-burned corpses from submerged funeral grounds. Anything that looks for food in graveyards is mean. Photo: Symondrake.com
7) Mako Shark: The shortfin mako can grow to 13 feet and 1,700 pounds and swim at bursts of 45 miles per hour. The fish that it easts, which can be anything from mackerel to turtles to swordfish, must feel like they got hit with by a Chevy Suburban with a bear trap on the front. Its teeth are eerily visible when its mouth is closed, giving it the appearance of a devilish grin at all times. There's no doubt about it, makos are mean.
6) Bluefish: Striper fishermen will curse them all day, but pound for pound there aren't many more voracious fish than bluefish. Schools of bluefish have been responsible for swimmers' lost fingers when they're chasing bait schools. Bluefish will gorge themselves, regurgitate, and then keep feeding. They'll ruin your plugs, shred your soft plastics, and make a bloody mess of your boat. They have excellent out-of-water vision, and there's nothing but pure mean in those yellow eyes that are glaring at you as you carefully unhook them.
5) Giant Stingray: These fish can grow to 16 feet and 1,200 pounds. It's believed to lurk on muddy river bottoms of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. In the Amazon, they're known as "wish-you-were-dead fish" because of their painful sting. When it stings you, it gets a barb which can be up to 8 inches long, in your flesh that injects a painful poison. When it rips the barb out it tears the flesh and spreads the poison. That's mean. Photo: Zeb Hogan
4) Tiger Shark: This might be, pound for pound, the meanest fish around. They don't get as big as Great Whites, but they're every bit as nasty. They'll eat turtles, dolphins, injured whales and other sharks. They'll attack humans. They're fearless. Photo: Albert Kok
3) Barracuda: These things are like missiles with fangs. Imagine saltwater pike on steroids. They can swim up to 27 miles per hour. They consume their prey by tearing chunks from the flesh. A barracuda leapt from the water in the keys to attack a kayaker, perhaps because she was wearing shiny jewlery. Any fish that will leave to water to get its teeth on you has got to make to "mean list." Photo: Aquaimages
2) Bull Shark: These things would be number one if they were big enough. Bull sharks only grow to about 11 feet, but they're about 30 feet mean. They are extremely aggressive and will eat anything they can get their teeth on. They are one of the three shark species most likely to attack humans. They use a "Bump and bite" technique to attack their prey and have been known to start bumping divers. That's when you want to get out of the water as quickly as humanly possible.
1) Great White Shark: "We're going to need a bigger boat." Whites are the unchallenged kings of the sea. These things are tanks with teeth, ferocious predators, ruthless hunters, and watching one take to the air to demolish a seal might make you think twice about going in your bath tub.

We've put together a ranking of the 40 meanest and hardest fighting fish in the world. Let the debate begin.