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September 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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More Mean Fish

from the September, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When we asked subscribers what they thought the meanest fish in the oceans was for an article in our July issue, we got an onslaught of responses that overwhelmingly favored the Titan triggerfish. But there were a few others that readers ranked as equally dangerous.

While diving in Moorea, Eve Ringel (Lambertville, NJ) was bitten not once but twice by a Picasso triggerfish, a lovely "painted version" but just as territorial as the Titan during nesting time.

Robert Levine (Englishtown, NJ) says triggerfish in the Atlantic Ocean, which summer at the New Jersey shore while waters are warm, are "a fighting fish with tough skin, like rough sandpaper and very thick. Their tough little teeth only want to bite you and your wetsuit (I know, I felt it). You have to also watch out for the two little barbs and one big one on top of their backs that are protection against other fish -- they will put a good-sized rip in your finger or hand." But Levine says the fish is great eating. "Pure white meat, no fat. Grilll, steam, bake or broil it."

Joe Kristel (Jacksonville, FL) says his section of the Florida coast has a type of triggerfish that is relatively docile, but when he and another diver were doing a survey of an artificial reef, "we were surrounded by hundreds of these guys in low visibility and getting attacked nonstop." You can see a video of Kristel's dive (and get an interesting look at artificial reef building) at www.tisiri.org/st-augustine-andy-king-reef

James Mandelbaum (Redondo Beach, CA) says the standard pufferfish is far more aggressive than the Titan triggerfish. "You can find them almost anywhere in the world, and they're known to nip at fingers, gear and anything else they can get their 'beaks' on. In fact, I lost one of my earlobes to a pufferfish."

Fish guarding their eggs are generally more aggressive, as Carolyn Kehrein (Woodland, CA) found out. "I was bit by a butterflyfish, as I must have been inadvertently hovering near its eggs. When this small, cute fish swam up to me and bit me, I couldn't stop laughing, especially when it kept posturing. I didn't realize there was a wound until I took my glove off on the boat and saw blood coming from my finger. The little fish drew blood through my leather glove! It wasn't a large wound, but it took a while to heal."

Dave Hollabaugh (Fulton, MO) says even little remoras can wreak some havoc. When diving the Panther wreck off of Bahamas' Cat Cay, one of them gave his wife, Elaine, a hickey on her neck. "She was not very pleased with this, and even less pleased with me as I took photos rather than help her disperse the pesky remoras."

And if you're planning to enter the water in the U.K., beware of the weever. The Daily Mail reports that 1,000 vacationers have been stung this summer by that country's most poisonous fish. Government scientists have found that weever numbers are on the increase around the southwestern coast. It's easy to step on the weever, which buries itself in sand during the day, and get the poisonous spines on their dorsal fins and gills stuck in your feet. Lifeguard stations now keep kettles constantly boiling to treat the stings with hot water.

If you want to read how a pufferfish severed a diver's finger or scores of other fascinating tales about diving, order There's a Cockroach in my Regulator, 240 pages of fascinating and weird tales from past Undercurrent issues, going back 35 years. It's a real page turner. Order at Undercurrent

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