Piranha Cousin Hooked In Michigan Lake

A Michigan woman hooked a piranha cousin with a vicious bite while fishing on Lake St. Clair. The sharp and imposing teeth of the cousin of the treacherous piranha make it easy to understand why the species is one of the most deadly on the planet. Holley Luft deemed the hooking of a red-belied pacu a “once in a lifetime catch.”

Pacu, the piranha cousin, weighed about two pounds and was 15 inches long. Although the fish was definitely large enough to cast an imposing shadow, it was relatively small by pacu standards. In its native South American waters, the piranha cousin can grow as large as a massive 55 pounds.

The pacu is believed to have been released into the Michigan lake by a pet owner. Sadly, many exotic pets simply get set free when an owner grows tired of caring for them or they become as large and deadly as nature intended. Releasing dangerous and non-native animals into the wild can spell death not only for the critter, but for unsuspecting residents who encounter the former pets.

Holley Luft was fishing only about 15 feet from the Lake St. Clair shoreline with her husband Tom when she caught the piranha cousin. She noticed quickly that she had something rather unusual tugging at her fishing line, which was baited with a nightcrawler.

The Michigan woman who caught the pacu had this to say about the incident:

“When it first came up, I’m like, ‘Holy crap.’ And just as I was ready to get it out of the net, my husband said, ‘I think it’s a piranha.’ So I dropped the fish and when I did, the hook came out of his mouth. At first we couldn’t believe it, we were flabbergasted. It was a very healthy and very pretty fish. We were total shocked. The teeth were just flabbergasting.”

Michigan Department of Natural Resources told Luft that an angler had caught a similar piranha cousin in the same vicinity in 2007. Department spokesman Jim Francis told Fox News that pacus are caught every couple of years in the region. “It’s not like we see them all the time, but it’s not uncommon either. In most cases, we think these are incidental releases from an aquarium,” Francis said. “It’s a popular fish in the pet industry and this was rather large, so it’s possible there are other fish out there. There may be more out there, but they’d be at very low levels,” he added.


The piranha cousin likely would not have survived the hard Michigan winter and now sits in the Luft’s freezer at home. The U.S. Geological Survey said the red-bellied pacu is a popular aquarium fish sold in many pet stores as juveniles. In warm climates, such as in Florida, the piranha cousin has reportedly become a popular pond fish. In South America, pacus are prized for their taste.

Does the piranha cousin caught in Michigan make you rethink swimming in open bodies of water in your state?

[Image Via: Shutterstock.com]

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