ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — A woman and her son fishing at North Park Lake reeled in an odd catch on Tuesday afternoon.
The Allegheny County Parks Department says the pair caught a red-bellied piranha. Neither was injured by the fish, which ended up flipping right back into the water after they took it off the hook.
According to the Parks Department, this is the first report of an fish like this in the lake, and “there is no indication that there are a large number of piranha” in the water there.
Officials say it’s more likely the fish was someone’s pet and it either outgrew its tank or the owner no longer wanted to care for it and released it.
However, it is illegal to release exotic species into Pennsylvania waters.
Parks Director Andrew Baechle said in a press release: “We received a call, and subsequently pictures, from a woman and her son who were fishing yesterday at North Park Lake, who thought they had caught a piranha. With the help of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, we were able to confirm that it was a red-bellied piranha. It’s unfortunate that someone released this fish into the lake, but it’s also an opportunity to remind members of the public that animals and pets should never be brought to the parks and let go. It’s not good for the park, the animals or our residents.”
Officials say the greatest chance for someone to be injured by this animal is a fisherman getting bitten while attempting to take it off a hook.
They say piranhas are omnivorous, as well as scavengers, feeding on “sick, injured and dying organisms.”
The Parks Department says the piranha attacks in movies involve larges schools of the fish going after injured animals.
The piranha can live up to eight years; however, officials say it cannot live in cold weather.
Anyone who is fishing in North Park Lake and catches what they believe to be a red-bellied piranha is asked to call the Allegheny County Parks Department at 412-350-2460 or the North Park Office on Pearce Mill Road at 724-935-1766.