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Kidsday interview: 'River Monsters' star Jeremy Wade

Jeremy Wade host of the Animal Planet show

Jeremy Wade host of the Animal Planet show "River Monsters" with Kidsday reporters (l) David Ras, Morgan O'Connor, Hailey Roca and Kevin Kells all from Franklin Square at the Animal Planet offices in Manhattan. (April 3, 2015) Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We met Jeremy Wade, host and star of the Animal Planet show "River Monsters," while he was in Manhattan recently.Were any of the fish that you caught friendly?

I would say they're all friendly because what happens in the programs we normally hear a story at the beginning and it's somebody who's been bitten on the leg or they've been pulled under. Normally what's happening the water's quite muddy so they can't see very much. A lot of these fish they're just waiting for some food to come along. I think fish do have personalities. Fish have very small brains so there's not much going on in there. But different types of fish have different personalities.

Do you actually cook and eat seafood?

That's a very good question. I do sometimes. I like eating fish and the thing is when I'm on a shoot, quite often the fish that I catch are bigger than me. Although I have a very healthy appetite I could normally eat about a pound of fish in a meal. I can't eat 100 pounds of fish or 200 pounds of fish. To kill a big fish like that would be wasteful. There's no refrigerator there. Also big fish like that, there are not that many of them. I put the big fish back. The big fish are also the ones which breed, which keep the whole population going.

What encourages you to face some of the deadliest creatures? It's because I'm curious to know what's under the water. When I started fishing I was probably a little younger than you and I didn't catch anything and I thought this is not a very fun way to spend the time. Once I started catching fish I was very curious to see what other fish there are. This happens to most people who fish -- they want to catch bigger fish. Once you start looking for bigger fish a lot of those bigger fish will be predators [something that eats other animals] so they get big by eating other fish. It's not just about the fish for me. It's something that's taken me to lots of different places.

What is your favorite fish that you have caught and would you consider keeping it as a pet?

One of my favorite fish is the Arapaima. It lives in the Amazon and they grow maybe nine feet long and one might weigh two of me. I have seen them in tanks, but you got to have a tank about the size of this room and you got to make sure it's covered because sometimes these fish will jump out of the water.

What kind of boat do you use?

We use all different kinds of boats. Whatever we could find where we are. Sometimes it's a nice boat, sometimes it would be a wooden dugout canoe, which is somebody gets a tree and you just chop a bit of tree and hollow it out and sometimes if it's an old one it's got holes in it. So you have to take the water out the whole time.

If you weren't on TV what would be your job?

I don't know what job I would have. Before I was on TV I was spending a lot of time just traveling. . . . I worked in a restaurant for awhile. One of the jobs I had was riding a motorbike around London delivering messages. I did all sorts of things. I worked as a teacher for awhile, but it was too hard for me. I didn't last very long.

Do you have any fear of any particular type of fish?

That's an interesting question because a lot of people say to me, "You are fearless, you're not afraid of anything are you?" Actually I'm afraid of quite a lot of things. I'm afraid of a lot of these fish.

What was the longest trip you took to catch a river monster?

Before I was doing this on TV I would sometimes go on trips about three months. So I'd go to the Amazon. A lot of that is traveling because it's such a huge area. I'd be trying to get to one particular place somewhere in the middle of the Amazon and it might take me two to three weeks to get there. And then I'd spend a couple of weeks there or sometimes I'd have to sit around for a few weeks just waiting for a boat to come out. Quite a few times I've been somewhere for two to three months where I've actually not caught anything.

After you catch a monster fish do you ever keep the head or jaw?

Not normally, because they go back alive. There was one time when the fish didn't recover and that was the Goliath Tiger Fish in the Congo. That's the one with the really big teeth. When I held that fish in the water it never managed to hold itself upright. Eventually that fish died. I gave it to the people in the nearby village and they had a big meal. I think it fed everybody in the village. After they did that I went and found the head. I do have it at home, but it was a very smelly process getting it to dry out. The director on our crew kept complaining, he kept wanting me to take it away because it was making him feel ill, the smell of this rotten skull, but that's the one case where I did bring something back.

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