A woman from Stockton, California, reeled in a strange catch from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Sacramento County.
Cathy Blanc was shocked when she caught a fish with teeth. At first thinking she caught a piranha, state wildlife officials confirmed that it was actually a relative of the piranha, the pacu.
“I go ‘this looks like a piranha, sorta, or something’s not right!'” Blanc said. “It was like a pan-sized perch.”
Blanc said fishing in the California Delta waters usually yields catfish, bluegill and crappie, but that night she caught two pacu using worms, reported KCRA.
In an investigation by Fox 40, reporters spoke to many people fishing along the Delta to see if they had seen the strange fish before.
Duncan Darr, the manager of Cliff’s Marina, is an expert of Delta fishing. When shown a photograph of the fish he had no idea what it was
One of the pacus ended up at the bait shop to be investigated.
Pacus inhabit most rivers and streams in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America. They generally prefer warmer waters than the River Delta in Stockton.
Pacus can grow to be up to 3 1/2 feet long.
Reporters at KCRA 3 found a pacu at Carter’s Pet Mart. People sometimes ask for pacus for their aquariums, but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says that they’re illegal to own unless you have a special permit to keep them for scientific research.
Wildlife officials suspect that the pacu was illegally dumped in the river, saying they are disruptive to the ecosystem because they're not native to the area.
“If they can’t take care of the fish anymore, that big old pacu isn’t going to fit down the toilet,” Mitchell Thompson of Carter’s Pet Mart said. “They’re very hearty fish, they can get by with minimal situations.”
“If you’re ever swimming in the Delta, just think that a 42-inch fish might swim past your leg,” Thompson said.
“You’re not about to get nibbled on anytime soon. They’re very docile fish.”
Fox 40 spoke to California Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan. He discredited the urban myth that fish from the piranha family attack men’s genitals, saying, “They’ll eat other bugs, and other fish. But they’re not going to go after ... parts. Male parts? No, they’re not going to go after male parts. That’s an urban myth."