Giant catfish – reality or myth?

The disaster that occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant stopped life in this area. But nature knows how to restore its strength. In the absence of people, the fish in the Pripyat River feels great and surprises visitors with its size. Chernobyl catfish are active scavengers and predators. Food for them can be worms, amphibians, other fish, and even birds, as well as small mammals. Catfish eat everything that falls into their huge mouth – live or dead prey. Due to the gigantic size that catfish can reach in the exclusion zone, they have practically no competitors left.

Fishing on the Pripyat River – is it possible?

Any fishing in bodies of water exposed to radiation is officially prohibited. The few residents of the surrounding villages and illegal tourists sometimes fish on the river or on the numerous ponds and lakes. Some want to get small fish for food, while others hunt for the sake of spectacular photography. After all, a well-taken picture with a huge catfish just caught is the best way to surprise your friends and show them what kind of fish can be found in Pripyat.

catfish Pripyat

Fishing in the Chernobyl zone – how safe is it?

30 years have passed after the terrible accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and scientists are still trying to figure out the effect of radiation on the numerous fauna of Chernobyl. But the fact remains unchanged – giant catfish in the rivers and lakes of the exclusion zone feed, reproduce and continue to grow. Before the notorious events, Chernobyl was considered the most prestigious industrial region in Ukraine. The reservoirs located on its territory supplied the Kyiv region with nutritious and tasty fish.

Now, fishing on the Pripyat River is carried out on a much smaller scale. A few locals and amateur fishermen sometimes delight themselves with the gifts of nature of this area. Catfish living in water bodies contaminated with radionuclides are not suitable for eating. Unlike other fish, catfish live in the bottom strip, where contaminated silt accumulates. Very often, catfish that are caught at a depth “glow” with radiation. The amount of radionuclides in their bodies far exceeds the permissible limits, which makes them a dangerous object for eating. This is also facilitated by the fact that bodies from a nearby cemetery, presumably, were washed into the river, which inadvertently included them in the diet of large fish.

The famous big catfish in Pripyat

Catfish are considered a tourist attraction of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the size of which makes an impression even on seasoned fishermen. The greatest body length is found in fish living in close proximity to the reactor cooler.

большие сомы в Припяти

Let’s have a look at what caused the giant growth of “mutants”:

  • isolated habitat;
  • lack of nearby industrial complexes;
  • complete freedom from man and his activities;
  • a large amount of food in the vicinity of the place of residence.

In abandoned cities, there are no people who could interfere with the growth of the catfish population in the river, and the huge fish reach a length of more than 2 meters. The impressive size requires more nutrients for life, so changes are also taking place in the diet. Slow giants have a lightning-fast grip, like other predators, and can catch a small mammal that has come to drink, or a bird easily.

Contrary to popular belief, catfish do not grow due to exposure to radiation. There are cases when in different parts of the world fish of even larger size were caught than the legendary Chernobyl “mutants”. For example, in Italy, Dino Ferrari caught a fish weighing 127 kg, which was larger than its counterparts in Pripyat.

Scientists are confident that radiation is not involved in the record growth of the famous fish. Individuals with mutations die in the first days of life, not even having time to pass on the damaged genes to their offspring. It is believed that the excessive volume of the giants of the Chernobyl zone was influenced by the absence of people. Stopped trapping, the presence of a large amount of food, and isolation from large predators have become commonplace reasons for the growth of the famous catfish.

Official visit to Pripyat

Every year more and more people strive to get into the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Trips to Chernobyl company conduct regular official excursions to Pripyat, with a starting point in Kyiv. Our guides are licensed and specially trained to ensure the most comfortable and unforgettable journey through exotic territories. To book a group seat or a customized tour in advance, contact the operator at When filling out the order form, be sure to indicate your contact information. Interesting routes, that are thought out to the smallest detail, and excellent preparation of the guides will make the extreme tour to Pripyat absolutely safe, but filled with new, vivid impressions.