Jeremy Wade is hanging up his fishing rod.
River Monsters has followed the extreme angler and biologist’s quest to find finned killers and discover which are predators, which are victims, and which are the stuff of myth and legend. But this Sunday will mark the first episode of the ninth and final season of the show.
The end is bittersweet for Wade — but he says he’s always known the show’s subject matter was finite.
“We’ve sort of covered everything we wanted to cover,” Wade tells realscreen. “I think what’s special is that usually in this business you start ending things when ratings start to drop — it’s refreshing to go out on a high.”
Wade says he had a list in his head of creatures he wanted to find. While it seemed “impossibly ambitious” at the time, Wade says everything on that list has been ticked off.
River Monsters has enjoyed extraordinary success during its run. At the time, the second episode, which aired back in 2009, scored the highest ratings for a prime-time telecast ever for Animal Planet.
Wade says he suspects River Monsters has wide appeal because viewers don’t see it as just a fishing show, but a way to find out about creatures they never knew existed.
“We decided early on to go at this as a bit of a detective story,” he says. “We’re also showcasing different areas of the world and different people, which audiences are interested in”
Plus, adds Lisa Lucas, executive producer with Animal Planet, good stories never go out of style.
“The characters that resonate on air are people like Jeremy that are passionate about what they do,” she says.
Wade’s fallibility also has an appeal for the audience. “Occasionally I get angry and frustrated,” he admits. “But eventually when I do succeed in a quest, that means it resonates that much more.”
Over the course of River Monsters, Wade says he has had to train his crew to understand that fish are wild animals. They’re sensitive to vibrations in the water, so Wade says capturing footage of the elusive predators is almost like a military operation.
“As a host, I’ve got it easy — there are others on the crew who are in charge of keeping batteries charged and equipment dry, all in very extreme conditions,” he says.
In the final season of River Monsters, Wade has his final chance to make his way to unexplored regions to pursue the last remaining cases in his file and track down the few monster fish that have eluded him.
Final episodes will include ventures to the tropical island of Sulawesi, Indonesian, a volcanic Pacific island and Nepal. He’ll also take on the biggest investigation of his career; to unravel what happened to over one thousand passengers of the RMS Laconia, torpedoed in the mid-Atlantic.
And while River Monsters may be coming to an end, we’ll be seeing more of Wade on the small screen.
UK indie prodco Icon Films has been commissioned by Animal Planet to create a completely new series staring Wade.
Details are sparse, but Monster Rivers (w/t) will explore the health of the world’s rivers and the lives of the people and wildlife dependent upon these waters.
The final season of River Monsters will begin on Sunday, April 23 at 9 p.m ET/PT.