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April 5 (UPI) — A teenager fishing in a South Carolina lake made a “once-in-a-lifetime” catch — a South American pacu fish.
Drew Patrick, 15, of Anderson, said he was fishing in Lake Hartwell when he reeled in the pacu, a piranha cousin famous for its human-like teeth.
Patrick told WYFF-TV it was a “once-in-a-lifetime catch.”
Ross Self with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources confirmed the fish reeled in by Patrick was a South American pacu. He said the fish are occasionally found in South Carolina waters after being illegally released.
“This type of fish is periodically caught in Hartwell,” Self said. “This is a popular aquarium species that can outgrow the owner’s aquarium.”
Self said it is illegal to release pacu into South Carolina’s waters, but the species is not believed to pose a significant threat to the local ecosystem.
Pacu are related to piranhas, but the species are vegetarians, primarily feeding on tree nuts. The fish have an unearned reputation for biting the testicles of swimmers, but the myth started as a joke by Peter Rask Moller, a professor at the Copenhagen Museum of Natural History, after a pacu was caught by a fisherman in Denmark.
William Fink, a piranha researcher at the University of Michigan, said there have been no recorded instances of pacu fish biting humans, genitals or otherwise.