Jeremy Wade on Pacu Found in Illinois Lake
By: Jodi Westrick
A pacu fish, native to the Amazon River Basin, was caught last month in Illinois' Lake Lou Yaeger by a local fisherman. This fish has strong human-like teeth and is closely related to the piranha. While the fish doesn't pose a real threat to humans, in its native home it's known as the "ball cutter" after two fishermen died from wounds sustained from the toothy fish.
Jeremy Wade, host of Animal Planet’s River Monsters, has some first-hand experience dealing with the pacu.
Wade was also able to share a few comments with us on the nature of the pacu fish, in light of the recent reports out of Illinois.
"Pacu are normally vegetarian, but can be carnivorous. They are also very hardy fish, good at surviving outside their native Amazon, as long as the water isn't too cold. In Papua New Guinea, they have bitten people; however, this was following a stocking of thousands of fish, into a situation with very few native species and a shortage of their preferred type of food (seeds and nuts). The fish in the reports are almost certainly pet fish that outgrew their tanks. In order to breed, there would need to be many more of them in the water. While it would not be true to say there is no risk of being bitten by a pacu in the US, the chances would be very small. Driving to and from the lake would be many times more dangerous."
Katie Sharp is a Digital Media Intern at Animal Planet. She would much rather pet a baby hedgehog than a saltwater crocodile.