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No bait, just tackle: He jumps fish via helicopter

If the phrase “extreme fishing” sounds fishy to you, it’s only because you haven’t met Matt Watson — a man who brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Don’t try this at home.”After landing 1,100 marlin in his life by conventional methods, the New Zealander decided there must be a more exciting way to catch a fish that can grow to nearly a ton and sports a lethal spear on its nose
/ Source: TODAY contributor

If the phrase “extreme fishing” sounds fishy to you, it’s only because you haven’t met Matt Watson — a man who brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Don’t try this at home.”

After landing 1,100 marlin in his life by conventional methods, the New Zealander decided there must be a more exciting way to catch a fish that can grow to nearly a ton and sports a lethal spear on its nose. Thursday, he gave TODAY’s Matt Lauer a look at what he came up with.

His footage revealed Watson diving from a helicopter onto the back of a cruising marlin in the Pacific Ocean. Another camera underwater caught him wrestling the giant fish to the surface before finally letting it go.

After watching the remarkable video, there was no reason to ask the spiky-haired Watson why he calls the new show he’s producing for Discovery Channel “Extreme Fisherman.” Coming this fall, the show will chronicle Watson’s unending quest to find new and dangerous ways to catch some of the ocean’s most powerful fish.

The thrill was gone

“I’ve been around fish and fishing my whole life, and having caught so many fish, the thrill started wearing off, so I started thinking of ways to bring back the thrill of catching my first big fish again,” Watson explained via satellite from New Zealand. He also offered sneak peeks from videos of him catching marlin while riding a surfboard and a jet ski.

These are not methods recommended by safety experts.

“Obviously, they’ve got a bill, which is a sharp, pointy thing on the front of them,” Watson said brightly. “Of course, that’s sharp, and they’ve got a lot of weight and power behind them, so you don’t have to be a genius to figure out if they’re hitting you straight on, it’s probably gonna go through you. In New Zealand, just in the last couple of weeks there’s been two fishermen that have been speared.”

Lauer asked Watson how he gets his ideas. The extreme fisherman confided that, as with so many other wacky notions men get, alcohol is involved: “Most of the ideas I come up with are born just from hanging around with my buddies having a few beers and throwing some ideas around.”

That’s how the ideas of fishing from a surfboard and jet ski came up. But the wild idea of tackling a marlin from the air had a different genesis.

“That planted a seed. I thought that would be pretty cool, to catch a big fish in the same sort of vein — jumping out and grabbing hold of it,” he said.

Even harder than it sounded

It didn’t sound easy, but Watson had no idea how difficult it would actually prove to be. He told Lauer it took 11 months and a number of failed attempts before he and his film crew finally got everything right.

The challenge wasn’t just tackling the fish; Watson also wanted clear shots of the dive from the helicopter, and underwater shots of him wrestling the marlin. That meant boats and divers and the helicopter — and then getting a marlin to cooperate by staying close to the surface, where Watson could grab it.

So, Lauer asked, how did he do it?

But he wouldn’t reveal how he got a diver close enough to the cruising marlin for the money shot of the underwater wrestling match.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to it. I can’t divulge too much,” he said. “I’m sure you wouldn’t hear Peter Jackson telling Steven Spielberg how he made ‘Lord of the Rings.’ ”

Lauer didn’t argue. Instead, he inquired what the extreme angler’s next angle might be.

“Just the other night, in one of our creative discussions, I guess you could call it, one of my friends said: ‘How about a car tire tube — like an inner tube from a car tire?’ ” Watson replied. The concept is still being worked out. “A few more brews to be had on script development on that one,” he said.

Lauer laughed at Watson’s creative process. “Obviously, we have a lot in common,” he told Watson. “That’s how some of our best ideas get developed also.”