NORTH PARK (KDKA) — You can only imagine the skepticism when the phone rang in the Allegheny County Parks director’s office this week and a woman on the other end said, “a woman said her family had just caught a piranha in North Park Lake.”
The family took pictures and sent them along.
“And we sent those pictures to the fish and boat commission and the biologist said they definitely were of a piranha,” Parks Director Andy Baechle said.
A Red Bellied Piranha to be exact.
“They are one of the few that are documented to go into that feeding frenzy that people always worry about,” said PPG Aquarium Aquarist Rich Terrell. But he added that is in the dry season, in the wild when they are in large schools and starving. Far from a description of one, maybe two or three in North Park Lake.
At Aquaworld on Ohio River Blvd in Emsworth, Eric Terry has been raising and selling Piranha among the thousands of fish in the shop for more than 20 years.
“Piranhas are shy by nature,” Terry said. “The only time you see them like in the movies is where there are hundreds of them or thousands of them will you see them be aggressive like that.”
In fact he says they are so shy they won’t even eat if he’s watching. Terry explained that if he steps back away from the aquarium they will eat.
The North Park Piranha was caught near the boathouse which comes as no surprise to long time fisherman Joe Lannis.
“Anything could be in here cause people come and dump their fish tanks in here,” he said.
Baechle agrees and adds the fish commission believes most people will raise a couple of piranha together so there could be a few more in the lake. There is no way to know.
Baechle said as the piranha that was caught this week ended up back in the water.
“When they saw it had teeth they were being cautious, and taking pictures, and as they were taking pictures it flopped back in the water,” she said.
Those heading out on the lake are undeterred by the presence of a Piranha in the water. Carol and Bob Kumpf brought their kayaks to the water and didn’t plan to change their plans.
“We’re still going to go out on the lake,” Carol said.
Bob said he’s not scared.
“I think piranhas school and they’re only a problem if they’re in a school so I’ll take my chances,” he said.
But, Carol added, “I plan on staying in the boat.”
Baechle wants to reassure everyone there is no reason to be concerned and the piranha won’t be around for long.
“They are a warm water fish so once the lake gets 50 degrees or lower they are going to die.”
In the meantime, if you should happen to catch the piranha Baechle said don’t put it back in the water, make no attempt to remove the hook, put it in a bucket, cut your line, and called the county police who patrol North Park.
Terrell emphasizes the point to leave the hook where it is, “those teeth are sharp and they could do some damage.”