A father-son team on a Sunday fishing trip in New Jersey say they reeled in a rare catch over the weekend, but it took them some time to identify the fish.
In an interview with WPVI News (shown below), Ron Rossi said he and his son originally thought the fish was a piranha, but it had strange, human-like teeth.
“We scoop this thing up and brought it up. We didn't know what kind of fish it was,” Ron Rossi told the news station.
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“I've never seen anything like that before in the lake. It was different,” said his son, Frank Rossi, of the fish the two pulled out of Swedes Lake.
After some searching on the Internet about fish with human-like teeth, the Rossis said they identified their catch as a pacu, a fish native to South America with a nasty reputation.
The fish is known in Brazil as “the nutcracker” and some believe the fish bite off the testicles of male swimmers, The Daily Mail reports.
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Pacu have begun showing up in waters all over the world, presumably because they are bought as pets, mistakenly thought to be piranhas, and are later released into the wild. They have been reported being caught in New Jersey, Washington state, Illinois and Michigan.
Internationally, they have been found in Paris and Scandinavia. They also have been found in Papua New Guinea, where some refer to the fish as “ball cutter,” after rumors there spread that a member of the species castrated two swimmers who later bled to death, according to the Daily Mail.
But New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Lawrence Hajna told ABC News that those reports are hard to take seriously and offered an explanation for the strange rumors.
“People confuse them as piranhas a lot, but they have teeth made for grinding instead,” he said yesterday. “They’ll eat nuts that drop in the water in the rain forest, hence the urban legend that they eat a certain part of the male anatomy.
“Just to clarify, they don’t eat the male anatomy,” Hajna added.
Nevertheless, Ron Rossi said he remains a little concerned for those who swim in Swedes Lake.
“A lot of residents swim and then there's the marathon people that swim the length of this lake just about every day,” he said.
In an written statement to WPVI, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection representative said the pacu was likely deposited into the lake by a pet owner.
“These fish do not survive in colder water, so we encourage people not to release it into the wild but to humanely destroy the fish,” the DEP representative said.
Photo Credit: WPVI Screenshot