Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image


You never know what you might find in Texas’ lakes.

When a pre-teen girl dunked a hook baited with a piece of hot dog into the 23-acre lake in Tom Bass Park on Aug. 27 and pulled out a flapping, snapping, hand-size fish, she unexpectedly uncovered evidence of a crime and underscored what fisheries managers and natural resource law enforcement see as an increasing threat to Texas waters.

The fish she caught from the popular Harris County park wedged at the intersection of Texas 288 and Beltway 8 was perch-shaped, but with a blunt head and a mouth rimmed with razor-sharp, pointed, wedge-shaped teeth. Adults with the girl knew they had a fish that needed investigation.

The fish ended up in the hands of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries staff who made an identification confirmed and verified by outside experts.

It was a piranha – specifically, a red-bellied piranha.

It was not a pacu, the mostly vegetarian relative and fellow South American native of the carnivorous piranha. Almost invariably, “piranhas” caught from waterways in the United States are misidentified pacu.

But not this fish. It was the real thing – Pygocentrus nattereri, a native of the Amazon basin and the stuff of legends built around piranhas’ aggressive carnivore behavior and a set of teeth that can easily and efficiently rip apart its victims.

The rest of the story recounts once again the problem with invasive species in Texas. There’s a lot of damage done to Texas’ ecosystem by ignorant and careless people who think that dumping a no-longer-wanted fish down the sewer or at the park. There are penalties for doing so, but good luck catching someone at it. For all the good that it will do for me to say this, if you own an exotic pet and need to dispose of it, please contact a pet store or the zoo or your local animal control department for help. Don’t just dump it somewhere.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.