The Nile perch that populate the Murchison Falls National Park area grow to be the biggest in the world due to the Ugandan Wildlife Authority's strict catch-and-release policy.
The hippopotami that bathe in that section of the Nile River also have a catch-and-release policy — except when they release you it's usually not in one piece.
"They kill more humans than sharks, lions and bears combined," said Bob Daly, who encountered pod after pod of the territorial herbivores during a recent fishing trip to Murchison Falls. "They won't eat you, they'll just bite you in half for trespassing."
But for the 53-year-old Whiting chemist and his longtime world-trekking fresh-water fishing friends — Cole Lundquist, Chuck Boyian and Steve Ryan, all of Chicago — there was no way to avoid them when aspiring to catch 100-pound-plus Nile perch.
"Their bait fish (small barbel and tigerfish) often congregate around hippos in the water," Daly said, "so we often try to drop our lines near a pod of hippos and back away."
One time Daly, one of his friends and a guide almost became fish food themselves when a perturbed hippo submerged under their boat and nearly tipped it over.
"If he had flipped us into the water, we would have been killed," Daly said.
Not only did Daly and his crew survive the trip spanning from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, but they thrived as Daly managed to catch several Nile perch, one registering at 100 pounds.
Lundquist recorded the biggest catch of the foursome — a 135-pounder.
Daly has been fishing exotic locations for nearly a quarter of a century. He's been to Papau New Guinea to catch the legendary PNG bass. He's been to Tanzania to battle the world's biggest and fiercest tigerfish. He's been lured to the Uraguay/Argentine border by the golden dorado.
"That's where we're going this spring," Daly said of his almost annual quest to catch golden dorados. He's published a book about hooking the fish.
"Then we're going to Suriname," Daly said of possibly reeling in the alleged man-eating wolf fish, one of the few species he has yet attempted to catch.
Daly usually takes three trips a year. Most are baited with danger.
"That's why you've got to do your homework and know whom to trust," Daly said. "We often plan these trips two to three years beforehand."
There are some places that are just a little too hot, like the Congo and Mongolia, the latter where Daly someday wishes to match wits with the taimen, the world's largest salmon.
"It wasn't too long ago that Uganda was too dangerous to visit," Daly said. "Most people when you mention Uganda, they immediately think of (infamous dictator) Idi Amin."
Incidentally, Daly's group landed at the Entebee airport where in 1976 the Israel Defense Force freed 100 Israeli and Jewish hostages held by terrorists backed by Amin's government.
Though he has caught more challenging fish in his lifetime, Daly considers his first Nile River excursion his greatest adventure.
"I'd go back in a minute," said Daly, who credited guide Paul Goldring and his crew for their utmost professionalism. "I couldn't believe all the wildlife we saw.
"We went on a safari beforehand and we were snapping all these photos not knowing that these same animals would later be within 10 feet of us on the shore because the river is their main source of life."
In addition to the ubiquitous hippos, there were close encounters with cape buffaloes, crocodiles, baboons, giraffes and elephants.
"We didn't see any lions or leopards," Daly said, "but they were out there."
Most of the aforementioned animals are listed among the world's most dangerous, especially the African elephant. The day after Daly and his friends left Uganda, an elephant killed three villagers in the area.
"I think we may have gotten a little too close here," Daly said while narrating a video he shot of two large elephants grazing near the shore with the boat just yards away.
"You see they have their tusks up and are flapping their ears," Daly said. "That's their sign for you to get out of town."