The majestic beauty of the Amazon River hides a world of mystery below its depths.
Adventurers travel from all over the world to explore this South American natural wonderland. The entire Amazon basin covers 2.7 million square miles, including tropical rain forest with so much lush flora and diverse fauna that there’s still no definitive description of everything that lives and breathes within its boundaries. Two fishermen, however, were recently looking for an up-close-and-personal encounter with one specific Amazonian creature, something they describe as an Amazon “river monster.”
This past April, Bill Day posted a video to his YouTube channel documenting a fishing expedition he took with his friend Steve Townson along the Amazon River. With the help of a local fishing guide, they were hoping to track down a fish known as the arapaima — a carnivorous behemoth indigenous to the area that according to National Geographic can grow up to 9 feet in length and weigh up to 440 pounds. Day and Townson were eager to meet one of largest freshwater fish in the world, hence the term “monster,” which in this instance means something extremely or unusually large.
Townson, who has earned the moniker “fish finder” according to Day, explains that arapaima are air breathers. This means they have to float to the water’s surface to breathe, making them quite easy to catch. Townson also suggests that since they are exposed when they breathe, the massive fish often like to live in the lakes and creeks that are connected to the 4,000-mile-long Amazon River, where there is less threat from predators.
After a run-in with a thunderstorm, Townson finally spots two arapaima fish coming to the surface for air. With haste, he quickly casts his lure in their direction and gets one to bite. With Day filming and the local fishing guide assisting Townson, the team is able to safely — for them and the arapaima — catch the fish they have been so excited to see.
The amount of fishing knowledge Day and Townson possess, and the amount of respect they have for the arapaima, is evident throughout the clip. Right after the catch, Townson declares, “It would be my absolute privilege to put this fish back.”
Though the video below has racked up over 11 million views, a few YouTube users don’t agree with the concept of catch-and-release fishing. In the YouTube comments, Day, whose YouTube series Amazon River Monsters is dedicated to his knowledge, points out to one such user that the “hard truth … is this: Without the sport fishermen paying big bucks to the locals for the privilege of catching and releasing the fish, the locals would just kill it and take it to market. Ask the fish what he would prefer.”
National Geographic points out that these “megafish” have become more rare due to heavy fishing and that the species has become the “focus of several conservation projects in South America.”
The Amazon is a vast expanse filled with secret treasures both big and small, but the video below is a reminder that while monsters may be large by dictionary definition, they can also be cherished for their absolute beauty.