PHOTOS: Woman catches relative of Piranha, testicle-eating Pacu fish, in Michigan lake

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirms a metro Detroit woman caught a Pacu fish, a South American relative of the Piranha, in an area lake last week.

Tom and Holley Luft were fishing at Lake St. Clair on July 9 when Holley said she caught the 14-inch Pacu.

At the time she said they weren't sure what it was and thought it sort of looked like a Blue Gill. However, it wasn't until they got the fish under a better light that they saw the teeth. That's when Tom thought it was a piranha.

The DNR believes the fish was likely someone's pet and got too big or too aggressive for its aquarium. The owner may have then dumped it into the lake.

The omnivorous fish have square, human-like teeth and can grow up to 55 pounds in the wild, according to the Museum of Natural History of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.

Ultimately, the Pacu will end up at the State of Michigan DNR Library for Invasive Species. A DNR agent who has been on the job for more than 20 years said he's only seen about a half dozen of them.

Because they are tropical, Pacu are not likely to survive a winter in the Great Lakes. Pacu can be legally owned and purchased from small from tropical fish stores for about $12.

Pacus primarily eat nuts, fruit and small fish, according to the museum. However, expert Henrik Carl told NPR in 2013 that while the Pacu's "mouth is not so big … human testicles are just a natural target. It's not normal to get your testicles bitten off, of course, but it can happen."

In 2011, a Pacu was blamed for the death of two men in Papua New Guinea, who died from blood loss after something in the water had bitten off their testicles. Pacu's there have reportedly earned the nickname "the ball cutter."

The same fish was found in a lake in Illinois last year.

After hearing of the deaths, British fisherman Jeremy Wade, of the Animal Planet TV show "River Monsters," told the Metro that he spent weeks searching for the Pacu fish in Papua New Guinea, and after hooking a 40 pound Pacu, he was shocked by what he found.

"When I reeled it in, it had this mouth which was surprisingly human-like, it is almost like they have teeth specially made for crushing," Wade said. "They are like human molars and the fish have powerful jaw muscles. They are very deep bodied and solid like a carp, with strong muscles."

Watch a video clip of the River Monsters episode about the Pacu fish below:

Print this article Back to Top