National Geographic's Brady Barr Uses Fishing Techniques to Measure Bite Force; American Alligator Wins

A few years ago, National Geographic reptile expert Dr. Brady Barr was sitting on the back of a 6-foot caiman that he was trying to capture in Venezuela, when the crocodilian suddenly bit the hand of a woman standing too close. "It was horrifying, like a bear trap," says Barr. "But it got me thinking about what animal has the strongest bite force."

Since then, Barr has been luring beasts to chomp down on pressure meters all over the world. The winner? Our own American alligator, which exerts 3,000 pounds. The largest great white sharks came in at around 700 pounds. Among mammals, the hyena is the champ at 1,000 pounds, followed by the African lion at 700. Humans are near the bottom of the scale at 190.

Barr would like to document grizzlies and polar bears, but there's a problem: "No one has figured out a safe way to get close to them." An angler himself, Barr uses techniques for many animals that would be familiar to fishermen. When trying to snag submerged crocs, for example, he goes with a debarbed treble hook on 150-pound-test SpiderWire, an Ambassadeur 5500-series reel, and a heavy Ugly Stik rod. He describes the fight as "epic." --BILL HEAVEY

WORDS HEARD

"It was like having a baby."

--Carolyn Epstein, a 43-year-old South Miami mother of three, after landing a 140-pound tarpon that she fought on 20-pound-test line for two hours in May. She hooked the fish in Boca Chica Channel north of Key West, and it towed her skiff nearly 3 miles. [From the Miami Herald]

GATOR GUY: Barr with a crocodile.