An airborne Arapaima would have no trouble knocking a fisherman into the water with a lightening strike, and it is believed that such occurences are responsible for these deaths.

Arapaima Scientific Classification

The Arapaima (Arapaima gigas) is a large air breathing fish found in the Amazon river watershed. This is one of the most dangerous waterways due to the creatures that can be found there. Everything is eating everything else and the Arapaima fits in very well with this scenario.

The Arapaima is a very large fish, growing over six feet long and can weigh well over 200 pounds. It is also known as Pirarucu or Paiche. It is also known as the Dinosaur of the Deep … and a few other names that we will not name here.

The Arapaima Legend and Myth

The legend behind the Arapaima is that Pirarucu, the disrespectful and taunting son of an Amazon chief, was struck down to the depths of the river by the gods for his disobedience. Through some strange transformation, he evolved into the Arapaima. To this day, the fish is called Pirarucu by the locals. The name Arapaima is only used by English speakers. It is also believed that this fish is possessed by an evil spirit, capable of pulling men out of their boats and taking them to their death.

There are many stories of the Arapaima attacking fisherman, knocking them from their boats and consuming them. However the truth is a little less dramatic, although they are the most likely cause of some human deaths.

Finding Large Arapaima

For years the Arapaima have been over harvested as they are desired for their flesh. (They are now also found in fish farms.)

Although finding an Arapaima in the Amazon is difficult, they can be found in tributaries and they can still be found reaching over 100 pounds. They can also be found in Thailand and Malaysia where they have been caught, weighing over 200 lbs. So despite what local rumors might have you believe, they do still exist and they can reach very large sizes.

So let’s get back to the legend. Is it capable of killing people?

Unlike Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, fishing boats in the Amazon are very small, more like canoes than fishing boats and just as unstable. These boats are very shallow and a strike from an Arapaima could easily tip the boat if hit at a susceptible angle. An airborne Arapaima would have no trouble knocking a fisherman into the water with a lightening strike. In most cases, the fishermen were fishing alone. It is believed that just such an occurence is responsible for the deaths.

While Arapaima are air breathers, they will not jump out of the water unless they feel the presence of a person. If they are cornered, they will leap out of the water with lightening speed and with violent force.

These fish fight aggressively to defend themselves.

Separating the Fact from Myth

The Arapaima can leap several feet out of the water if threatened and cornered. A blow from this fish is sufficient to knock a person out of the boat and unconscious.

The Arapaima will not feed on people, but there are plenty of other creatures in the Amazon that will.

There are still massive Arapaima in their native habitat as well as in parts of Asia in Thailand and Malyasia. Many stories of fisherman being eaten after being knocked from the boat are mostly likely the result of a Cayman, that has no trouble eating a person.