Piranhas in Elkhart?!


Piranhas in Elkhart-- it may seem like a bit of a fish tale, but according to local fisherman, its more than true!

Three different people at High Dive Park in Elkhart saw a man catch a large toothy fish with his bare hands on Saturday afternoon.

"I thought it was a piranha," said Joshua Branch, a local fisherman who comes to the park several days a week.

"They just seen it, so they jumped in and grabbed it with their bare hands and strung it with a stick," said Zared Hurley another High Dive Park regular.

But what exactly is this scary fish? ABC 57 News forwarded the picture to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources  who identified the fish as a Red Bellied Pacu.

According to the DNR, the Pacu is closely related to the Piranha and often confused with the Piranha. However, the Pacu feeds mostly on aquatic plants.

"I saw a guy carrying it around on a stick. I didn't know what to think, it was twice the size of the one that I caught," said Johnny Ramirez, an Elkhart fisherman who claims to have caught a similar fish several weeks ago.

"Yeah, it was a littler. But, it had the same teeth and stuff," explained Ramirez. "I thought it was a Piranha so I called the natural resources, the game warden. They came down and looked at it and that's what it was. It was a Pacu." 

The DNR said the Pacu is native to South America, but it's been popping up throughout Indiana for the last 15 years. Fishery biologists believe the fish were introduced to local waterways by people who dumped their unwanted aquarium fish into streams and creeks.

"They said its not common, but they're here," explained Ramirez. 

The DNR said the Pacu does not pose a threat to the local wildlife because it probably won't be able to reproduce during the Indiana winters. But, the DNR stressed that dumping aquariums can be dangerous to local ecosystems, and it is also illegal.

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