Nightmares can come true.
Being chased by a fish with teeth seems like something out of a cartoon, but it was a reality for one Alabama man who was bitten on the leg by the sea animal during a dive off the coast of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.
Alex Pikul, 31, was on a three-week group scuba trip in September when they swam over a nest of triggerfish eggs after veering off course due to a strong current. As the group passed over, a male triggerfish charged at them, biting Pikul’s leg and leaving him grabbing his limb in pain.
“Maira [the owner of the diving company] was going first and all of a sudden a triggerfish starts chasing her and so I swim up and try to shoo it away,” the café owner recalled to South West News Service. “It startled me and it certainly hurt but it didn’t break skin or anything, so it wasn’t dangerous.”
The feisty triggerfish attack was captured on camera, with Pikul — who has been diving since 2020 — able to relive the ordeal, which he admitted looks pretty funny.
“I’ve seen triggerfish before but when I saw the video of it coming back, I thought it was hilarious,” he continued. “You never really get that close of a shot of what their teeth look like.
Describing the fish as having “a face only a mother could love,” Pikul said the “goofy, ugly-looking fish” has human-like teeth, adding to the bizarreness of the situation.
“They look too big for his mouth, almost like he’s got dentures or something,” he quipped.
Despite the fish taking a chomp of his leg — and leaving a teeth-shaped bruise on it — the seasoned diver says he doesn’t blame the fish for simply defending its eggs.
“Triggerfish are very territorial and there’s normally two of them — the mom will stay on the bottom where the eggs are and then the male triggerfish guard the space above the eggs up to the surface,” he explained. “The fish was just doing what it was supposed to do and being defensive of its kids.”
Despite his wounds and chaos, Pikul says for many it was the best dive of the trip.
“It was so challenging and it was also a really beautiful dive,” he reminisced. “It was along a walled drop-off where the gulf is meeting the peninsula, so there were a lot of big fish coming in, out following that current, and huge schools of red snappers.”