A retired New Jersey bus driver caught a strange, toothy fish in a Passaic lake last Saturday that has been identified as an Amazonian pacu fish, an invasive species with an infamous reputation.
Tom Boylan, 77, has pulled hundreds of carp out of the lake in Third Ward Veterans Memorial Park, according to The Record, but this one looked noticeably different. It was about 10 inches long with a piranha-like shape, an orange belly and large teeth with dulled points.
Curious about the bizarre catch, Boylan went to a local aquarium supply store and inquired.
Absolutely Fish manager Pat Egan told the newspaper, “We call them ‘tank busters.’ We don’t even sell them because they grow so big.” Egan said it is likely someone who had the fish as a pet and, when it grew too big, decided to toss it in the lake.
Pacu fish can live for 20 years and grow quite larger, reaching a length of three feet and 44 pounds in weight, according to scientist Lars Skou Olsen at Blue Planet Aquarium.
While less ferocious than their Amazonian cousins, they have recently surfaced in the media as a danger to humans — specifically to male humans. In the wild they often eat other fish, vegetables and nuts, which they are able to crack with their powerful jaws.
In August, a pacu fish was found in the Oresund, a strait that separates Denmark from Sweden. In a news release at the time, a fish expert from the University of Copenhagen, Peter Rask Moller, said, “Anyone choosing to bathe in the Oresund these days had best keep their swimsuits well tied.”
The comment, said in jest, was taken seriously by international new agencies and the pacu’s alleged tactics suddenly had men everywhere cringing. While Moller called the comment a joke in a CNN interview, the reputation seems to have lived on.
“We did say that we recommend men to keep their swimsuits tied up until we know if there are more pacus out there in our waters,” Moller responded to CNN in an e-mail. “Of course, this is half a joke since it is very unlikely that you would actually meet one here and that it would bite you. It’s up to people themselves how careful they want to be. I’ll keep my shorts on, though.”
The danger to New Jersey swimmers in the future is minimal, as the pacus won’t make it through the cold Northeast winter.
It’s not the first time an Amazonian fish has been pulled out of a tri-state lake, in September of last year a piranha wound up on the poll of this young angler: