On October 21, the Alaskan news site Ktoo.org ran a story titled “Programmed to Eat: Northern Pike Yools Husky’s North Bull Gravel Pet.” It should click for me. The article tells the story of longtime Arctic resident Shannon Dundt, who took her dogs swimming in a gravel pit in the area in September. Fortunately, my chihuahua, Mulan, wanted nothing to do with the water, but Murphy her husky greyhound mix dove down on the edge of the hole. This is when all hell broke loose. From the story:
“Out of nowhere, Pam, here’s this big, old, huge fish, which, I didn’t know what it was,” Dundt said. “Three feet, he’s hanging off his muzzle, you know, and he starts shaking his head and this thing is holding him.”
According to the article, Murphy managed to knock the northern pike out of his face with his claws, but then he swung and grabbed the dog’s leg. Now, if you think I’m leading a mockery of this event, I’m not. Murphy was fine, but the spear was aggressive enough to cause some legitimate damage. There is a picture in the piece of the poor puppy right after the attack lying on a bed soaked in blood, the marks on his teeth dripping onto the muzzle of his feet.
Pike and musky attacks do occur, though very rarely. They occur more often than any other type of “scary” freshwater fish, yet both species have somehow managed to evade becoming the main characters in stupid B-movies. The same cannot be said of the other fish that struck 100% unfounded terror in the hearts of the uninformed masses.
Crocodile gar are living dinosaurs. They have been swimming in our country for millions of years, and historically ranged as far north as Ohio. Although these armor-coated giants once thrived throughout the mouth of the Mississippi River, these days they are found in numbers only in eastern Texas and across the Gulf Coast to northern Florida. It’s certainly not a desirable food fish, so we didn’t eliminate it to supply the market. We killed them at least partly out of fear.
As the American population grew and more people ended up living along waterways littered with clothes, people naturally became uncomfortable about fish over 100 pounds with a face full of vicious teeth swimming where their livestock drank and children swam. Gator Jar is imposing, without a doubt, these teeth are designed to hold small fish. In addition, the gar does not really hunt. They lie on the bottom and wait for the carp or sucker to swim up. Even now, hundreds of years later, there has not been a 100% confirmed case of garlic biting a human, as the perpetrators in such cases are more likely to be the action of an actual crocodile, rather than the fish that shares its name. However, that did not stop eradication efforts.
In the 1930s, Texas Game & Fish unveiled the Electric Gar Destroyer, a boat capable of sailing and pumping massive effort into the water. The program was disguised as a solution to saving more desirable fish from being wiped out by the neighbor, although decades later, alligator gars have been shown to play an important role in keeping non-native carp and other unwanted species in check. However, in those days, no one was sad about the lack of large, ugly swimming. To date, they are a popular target for shot hunting. I’m all for bow fishing, but not when you kill, just for kicks, a fish that would have taken 80 years or more to reach 100lbs.
Back in the early 2000s, when invasive rattlesnakes were first covered in national news, all it took was a biologist saying they could walk on Earth and all bets were off. People in Maryland would keep their Pomeranian on a tight leash and lock the cat inside. The Snakeheads elicited so much fear and anxiety that within a couple of years of their arrival, we were treated to such blockbusters as “Snakehead Horror,” “Snakehead Swamp,” and my favorite, “Frankenfish.” More than twenty years have passed since these fish appeared, and there is no trace of dead squirrels and rabbits. They are sure that hell has never bitten a human without provocation.
“Walking on land” was a disgraceful and irresponsible way of saying, “They can move between bodies of water if the conditions are perfect.” Snakeheads can breathe air and, as a survival mechanism, can move between waterways assuming they are close together and that there is wet grass or mud between them. They will only do so if, for whatever reason, the water they were in becomes unlivable. But the head of a snake doesn’t wriggle itself out on the highway, and even if it doesn’t bite one of your toes along the way. Meanwhile, pike and muskrat draw human blood.
Read Next: The State of Maryland Will Pay You to Catch, Kill, and Report Northern Snakeheads
Sink your teeth into it
Perhaps the most famous musky attack happened to Kim Driver. In July 2020, while wading in the Winnipeg River, a musky musk driver’s calf began to shake violently and pulled it under the water. She had deep cuts and punctures that later required plastic surgery. Barely a year later, Matt Gervais was swimming 3 miles in Lake St. Clair in Ontario when a musky caught his hand. In 2017, a young girl on a paddle board was attacked by a Muskie in Minnesota.
Human attacks aside, there are plenty of tales going around about “pouch dogs” being taken out by pike and muskrat, and I’m sure Mulan’s Chihuahua sat next to her brother Murphy that night after the Alaskan attack, breathing a sigh of relief. . If you understand the fish, the attack makes sense. Alaska has short summers. By September, the fish know that winter is coming. That is why catching pike and muskrat is so good in the fall. They’re hungrier, so if you want something to give you that horror movie vibe, it’s not gars and snake heads. It’s dipping your little pigs in pike and musk water after Labor Day.