Fish with a scary reputation turns up in American waters — you’ll hope it isn’t true

A fish native to the Amazon, with a contested reputation for having an appetite for a part of the male anatomy that has earned it the nickname “The Nutcracker,” was found in a man-made New Jersey lake.

Fisherman Ron Rossi caught the fish Sunday while on a day  out with his family at Swedes Lake in Burlington County, N.J., WPVI reported.

“We scoop this thing up and brought it up. We didn’t know what kind of fish it was,” said Ron.

Frank Rossi, Ron’s son and fishing buddy, says he couldn’t identify it either.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before in the lake. It was different,” said Frank.

At first, judging from its appearance, they thought it was a piranha.

But after researching it on the internet, indications were that it was actually a South American a fish called a Pacu.

Pacu are related to piranha but unlike their meat-loving cousins, Pacu are listed as omnivores.

Also, while Pacu do have teeth they are not sharp. The Rossi’s say that’s how they confirmed the fish’s identity.

“We did pull the bottom lip down to see what they looked like and they have almost human teeth. It’s exactly what it looked like on the Internet,” said Ron.

The question now is – How did a freshwater fish from South America end up in a man-made lake in New Jersey?

State officials say the answer begins with people buying Pacu from pet stores for their aquariums.

A spokesperson from the DEP sent Action News a statement reading in part, “Many times, these fish are deposited into lakes by pet owners. These fish do not survive in colder water, so we encourage people not to release it into the wild but to humanely destroy the fish.”

The Rossi’s plan on doing just that.

But their lingering concern is that more Pacu remain in Swedes Lake.

Their concern stems from the fact that, while rare, there have been reports of Pacu attacking people.

According to The Daily Mail, authorities in Papua New Guinea believe the fish is responsible for the death of two men from blood loss after they were castrated while swimming.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Lawrence Hajna told reporters the legend of the fish’s appetite for the male anatomy are an old wives tale based on the fact that the fish will, in fact, eat tree nuts that fall into the water.

“They’ll eat nuts that drop in the water in the rain forest, hence the urban legend that they eat a certain part of the male anatomy,” Hajna said. “Just to clarify, they don’t eat the male anatomy.”

Uh, OK. But until they are certain they have eradicated this fishy intruder, the men might want to wear extra protection when they swim.

Carmine Sabia


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