Woman catches piranha cousin in Detroit-area lake

In the Amazon, pacus can grow as large as three feet in length and weigh up to 55 pounds.
By Brooks Hays  |  July 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM
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DETROIT, July 15 (UPI) -- Holley Luft was hoping to catch a muskie or walleye, or maybe a perch, but when she felt a tug on her line last week in Lake St. Clair near Detroit, she reeled in a strange and toothy surprise -- a pacu, a South American native and relative of the piranha.

"When it first came up, I'm like, 'Holy crap,'" Luft told Fox News. "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."

Luft, 52, was fishing with her husband Tom just 15 feet from shore.

Officials with Michigan's Department of Natural Resources said the fish is likely not a piranha but a pacu, and a small one by pacu standards. Luft's fish measured a little over a foot and weighed a little less than two pounds. In the Amazon, pacus can grow as large as three feet in length and weigh up to 55 pounds. The species eats fruits, nuts and seeds that fall into the rivers of South America.

"It was a very healthy and very pretty fish," Luft said. "We were totally shocked; the teeth were just flabbergasting."

Cleyo Harris, a fisheries biologist with the state agency, said the species is popular in the aquarium trade and said its not unheard of for them to found in area lakes. "It does happen," he told the Detroit Free Press. "It's not a very frequent thing."

Though a pacu released in such northern environs can manage during the warmer months, such species are ill-equipped to face the cold and wouldn't likely survive a Michigan winter. For this particular pacu, winter came a little early. The specimen is now resting in Luft's freezer.

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