South American Piranha Caught In Louisiana Lake

A hand holding a small fish
LWLF

An unlikely resident with a lot of teeth and big appetite was recently uncovered in a Louisiana lake.

And no, not an alligator..

A red-bellied piranha native to the Amazon River basin.

The fish was caught in University Lake near the campus of Louisiana State University.

Red piranhas are typically about 4-8 inches long, however they can grow up to a foot long and tip the scales at more than 4-pounds. Unlike most freshwater fish, piranhas have razor sharp teeth more similar to saltwater fish as opposed to other fresh water predators like pike, walleye, or muskie who rounded teeth.

The fish in the wild eats pieces bitten off larger fish, whole small fish, insects and also some aquatic vegetation.

While the fish are ferocious, they’re typically found in large schools in their native waters and they rely on swarming as a group to devour their prey. A single piranha presents very little danger to a human. The fish are illegal to possess in the state, and authorities are currently investigating where the fish came from and whether or not any more of them are present.

Because the species could theoretically thrive in the climate conditions and habitat found in the southern U.S., the sale and possession of the fish is banned in many states to prevent the pet trade from accidentally establishing wild populations of the fish.

According to Outdoor Life, piranhas have previously been caught in other states, including Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Florida though breeding populations are not believed to be established in those states.

A fish in a wooden box

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is leading the investigation, and indicated they believe the fish was a pet that was set free into the lake.

As buzz about the fish started to make more noise on online, the department also issued a press release to remind people of the realities of piranhas and to ask anyone who may catch another piranha nearby to alert them.

“While their reputation in popular culture labels them as a vicious predator, piranhas are more likely to scavenge for dead or dying prey, including fish or crustaceans,” the press release said.

“If you have information, or if you think you caught a piranha, please do not return it to the water.”

If you have information on the origin of this particular piranha, or happen to catch a piranha in Louisiana please contact the states aquatic invasive species hotline at 225-765-3977 or [email protected].

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