Local News

Wildlife Experts Don't Bite On Tale Of Piranha In Lake Gaston

Posted September 27, 2006 7:56 a.m. EDT

— A young boy, a toothy fish and a whale of a tale are the talk of people who live along Lake Gaston.

Ten-year-old James Schanewolf reeled in a 16-inch, 3-pound fish on Monday, and word quickly spread about the unusual creature that he caught.

"My brother actually thought it was a piranha because he saw the teeth," James said.

Wildlife experts were called in to determine if a tropical fish notorious for eating flesh had been found in Lake Gaston.

"Actually, what was caught was part of the piranha family -- a cousin. It's called a pacu," said Patrick Browne, an officer with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "The piranha, everybody knows, is a flesh-eating type fish. The pacu normally eats vegetation -- fruit and things of that sort."

Pacus are popular aquarium pets, Browne said, adding that he believes the one James caught came from someone's aquarium.

"Somebody had this fish in an aquarium, and it got too large and difficult to take care of and probably was released into the lake," he said.

Piranha are banned in North Carolina -- it's against the law to possess them even in an aquarium -- and Browne said there's no concern that the fish's larger cousin will populate Lake Gaston. The winters are too cold for it to survive, he said.