Fisherman catches strange fish in NC river

Fisherman catches what he thinks is a piranha in the Catawba River / Source: WBTV

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -- A fisherman came across a scary find on the Catawba River over the weekend.

Jimmie Smith thought he caught a piranha on Sunday, but experts say it’s something else.

It’s a distant cousin of the piranha known as the pacu fish, and it doesn’t belong in the Catawba River.

“Definitely a pacu, not a piranha," Robert Stroud of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said. "It’s a South American fish. It’s not a flesh eater.”

The pacu has human-like teeth and Stroud says the piranha has tiny, sharp teeth.

So how did a fish like the pacu show up in the Carolinas?

“It probably outgrew the aquarium and so rather than dispose of it like they should they bring it down here to the Catawba River,” Stroud said.

People are dumping their unwanted pets, causing lasting impacts.

“Exotics can come into an introduced area and wreak havoc on the native fauna,” he said.

They can end up out-competing existing species.

Sightings are also spreading to people who come out here for fun.

“I know I’ll think twice before getting in the water,” fisherman Tylor Moss said.

Stroud says this is not the first time someone has found a Pacu, in fact people have been noticing them every once in a while since back in the early 2000s. He wants to remind everyone to not dump their fish and report any exotic fish to a local game warden.

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