An angler looking to bring home some catfish for dinner was a bit freaked out when he reeled in a fish that flashed its “grill” and bit his knife. Jerry Melton, 46, was fishing in the Catawba River last week when he caught what state wildlife officials later identified as a piranha, a South American carnivorous fish that lives in freshwater.
“When I got it on the bank I didn’t really know what it was; I hadn’t seen anything like it before,” Melton said. When Melton opened the fish’s mouth with a pocket knife, he said the fish bit down and left an impression on the blade.
Wildlife officials told Melton on Saturday that he caught a 1 pound, 4 ounce piranha that was probably dumped in the river. Officials said the fish was likely put there by someone who kept it as a pet and later dumped it into local waters.
“Releasing nonnative fish in our native waters is highly irresponsible because it could have a very adverse affect on the fish in that ecosystem,” said Paul Barrington, an ichthyologist with the Fort Fisher Aquarium.
Melton, who is keeping the piranha in his freezer until he can have it mounted, said the experience will keep him out of the river’s water. “I’ve been fishing there my whole life,” he said. “Catching something like that is definitely going to make me think twice about what’s in that water.”