Earlier this summer Tom Rigby, a Sarasota resident, was fishing in a local creek when he felt a hard tug on his line. After a protracted fight, Rigby was able to pull the fish onto his boat, but he was stumped at his catch. The large, grayish fish with a set of human-like molars didn't look like anything he'd ever seen in Sunshine State waters.
"I got out my fish ID chart and go through all of the species," Rigby later told Suncoast TV station WWSB. "I can't see anything that looks like the species."
Rigby snapped a picture of the fish and later sent it off to the Mote Marine research lab, the station reported. The lab had no trouble identifying it: Rigby had caught a pacu, a South American freshwater fish that's a relative of the piranha and commonly rumored to be fond of setting its expansive set of teeth upon fishermen's testicles.
"The pacu is not normally dangerous to people, but it has quite a serious bite. There have been incidents in other countries, such as Papua New Guinea, where some men have had their testicles bitten off," Henrik Carl, a fish expert at the National History Museum of Denmark, told the Swedish newspaper The Local last August after a pacu was discovered in a Scandinavian channel. "They bite because they're hungry, and testicles sit nicely in their mouth."
Just take a minute to appreciate that quote before moving on with your day.
Pacus have been found numerous times in nonnative waters, including earlier this month at a Michigan lake, last summer in New Jersey, and in 2012 in Illinois, most likely after having escaped or been released from private aquariums.
But despite the catchy headlines, the fish's appetite for human man parts is probably overblown: Pacus usually eat insects, fruits, and nuts, according to a webpage for the Animal Planet show River Monsters, which filmed a segment on the fish, and began feeding on other fish only around 1999, when other food sources became scarce.
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