Fishing Lines: Anglers beware: every year's a leap year for the kingfish of Kenya

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Last week's article about jumping carp provoked a shoal of correspondence highlighting other instances. It's apparent that a lot of readers have too much time on their hands.

The most fascinating example shows a man driving a boat along a river. As he does so, dozens of fish leap into the boat. At one stage, he is covering his head to avoid being hit. The clip has been listed on an urban myths website for some weeks, but a bit of research revealed that it wasn't faked at all.

The footage was shot in northern Brazil, on a section of the Mequens River inside the Porto Rolins Park, a protected conservation area where fishing is banned (though driving a boat along and collecting the fish as they jump in could well be construed as fishing). The fish are matrinxa (brycon cephalus).

Funny how odd things stick in your brain. I remember reading in a scientific journal that research had shown clove oil reduced the stress levels of matrinxa when they were being transported. (They are a popular farmed fish in Brazil.) After watching this film, I now see why they need the clove oil.

Jumping fish have always fascinated anglers. Watching salmon climb seemingly impassable rapids, or seeing a marlin throw its huge body clear of the water, are things that memory locks in a room labelled: not to be thrown away.

Some surprising species jump as well. The sturgeon, which grows to more than 2,000lb, is a great leaper. You can fish for them on rivers in Washington and Oregon, with fish caught to more than 800lb. My friend Des Taylor, who fishes there regularly, describes them as "like hooking a Volvo that jumps".

Only a couple of weeks ago, a woman was injured by a leaping sturgeon, the second incident this year on Florida's Suwannee River. Tara Spears was knocked unconscious when a sturgeon leapt into her boat. In April, a 50-year-old woman was more seriously injured, suffering a ruptured spleen. She also needed three fingers reattached, but lost one finger and a tooth.

The finest jumping fish story I've heard was from my friend Andy Nicholson, who once worked as a big-game guide off Malindi in Kenya. A party of Italians had commissioned his boat and were chatting in the cabin. Suddenly a huge kingfish leapt out of the sea and smashed straight through the window.

Kingfish catch their prey by leaping on top of a shoal of smaller fish and stunning them, and Andy said: "It obviously thought the boat was a shoal of fish." The 70-pounder, armed with fearsome teeth, created mayhem. All the Italians ran out and leapt into the sea. "We were trolling eight lines, all with big hooks, and they jumped into a shark-infested sea," said Andy.

Three got hooked up. It took ages to untangle the lines and rescue the Italians, who surprisingly didn't feel like fishing any more. But the story had a happy ending. That night, Andy dined with the group, by now recovered from their panic. And they ate... the kingfish that had attacked them.

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