NYPost PASSAIC, NJ — A fisherman got a surprise when he hooked a fish in a northern New Jersey lake. His 10-inch catch turned out to be a pacu, which is a gentler cousin of piranhas found in South America’s Amazon River. The fish Tom Boylan landed in Passaic’s Third Ward Veterans Memorial Park had rounded teeth, and an orange belly and fins. He turned to an aquarium supply store for answers. Absolutely Fish manager Pat Egan tells The Record someone most likely had the pacu in their fish tank and dumped it when it became too big. Egan says the store doesn’t sell the fish because they can grow up to 4 feet long. Pacus eat vegetation and nuts unlike piranhas, which will feed on flesh.
I am not surprised that a Pacu was caught in New Jersey waters, it was not likely an invasive species, and was likely one individual pet which was released by an owner who could no longer care for it. This would be a problem in a place like Florida, where so many people have released pet pythons and monitor lizards into the warm climate that they have established breeding populations, which can be devastating to the native wildlife. However, water in New Jersey becomes far too cold in the winter months for a fish like the pacu to survive, and it was just a matter of time until this fish went belly up. The pacu is a creepy looking fish due to its resemblance to the piranha and human like teeth, which it uses to crush and eat nuts that fall into the River from overhanging trees, and there have been rumors of pacus getting their normal diet confused with a set of human testicles and taking a bite. In fact, there was an episode of the Animal Planet hit show “River Monsters” titled “The Mutilator” which dealt with this subject at length. There have even been recent reports of the pacu being caught in Scandinavian waters. However, each of these cases are likely just pets that were released into the wild, and if I was swimming in the water of New Jersey or Scandinavia i would not swim with any added concern over the well being of my testicles just yet.