SARASOTA, Fla. -- A local angler has quite the fish tale to tell. He says he recently caught a pacu on the Suncoast -- a member of the piranha family with a very unsettling reputation.
The name of Tom Rigby's boat is Asleep at the Reel. About a month ago, Rigby was fishing Phillippi Creek with a shrimp and was wide awake when his line took off.
“I had the drag set pretty tight, and it's running with it. My first thought was a jack because they fight like crazy.”
After a long fight, he brought the fish aboard the boat. “I got out my fish ID chart and go through all of the species. I can’t see anything that looks like the species.”
He snapped a quick photo of the fish and released it back into the water.
He sent his picture of the fish to Mote Marine. They quickly identify it as a pacu, a freshwater species native to South America -- and related to the piranha.
“I'm looking at all of the teeth, saying this thing can do some serious damage to another fish or something.”
That something will make men everywhere cringe. “I found out it has a reputation for going after men’s testicles. I was just worried about it biting my finger.”
That reputation has been investigated for years, even by Animal Planet's extreme angler Jeremy Wade -- the host of the hit show River Monsters.
There have never been any confirmed cases of the pacu's unusual appetite.
For Rigby, he has an appetite for catching another one -- this time keeping it. “It was quite an adventure; pretty cool to catch and it’s out there somewhere still looking for lunch.”
The mystery remains: how did this fish end up here? The likely answer is that at one time it was someone's pet that outgrew its aquarium and was released into area waters.