While relaxing on her back porch in July, Janna Clinton observed her 11-year-old son fishing in the pond behind their house in Oklahoma.
She jumped out of her chair as Charlie started calling for her and went to her son, who was horrified by the thing hanging from the end of his fishing line.
To learn more about the rare pacu that Charlie caught, keep reading!
The pond beside the Clintons’ house is a popular catch-and-release area for bass and catfish. But on the weekend of July 14, Charlie caught an odd-looking creature using only a piece of bread as a lure and asked his mother Janna for assistance.
“He was screaming, ‘Oh my God, mom! Oh my God!’” the mother said. “I thought he was just being dramatic, to be honest.”
Taking a closer look, she discovered the catch had human-like teeth.
“Obviously being in a neighborhood pond, we’re used to just catching a few bass or catfish…I mean, nothing with human-like teeth,” she said, adding that the fish was quite feisty. “(Charlie) said it put up a heck of a fight. He was the only one down there fishing and he did a great job.”
The Clintons published a picture of the peculiar fish on the Facebook page for their neighbourhood, and people in the area who noticed the post and images commented as follows: One person remarked, “THOSE ARE HUMAN TEETH,” while another person wrote, “What in the world!?! That is spooky.
Some suggested the family reach out to wildlife. “That is most definitely not a catch and release! Thank you for taking it seriously,” said one resident while another shares, “You may need to report that to somebody in wildlife or something…”
The family returned the fish to the pond after contacting wildlife about their eerie catch of the day. “It’s a catch and release pond…so we unfortunately did release it back because we didn’t know any better at the time,” Janna said. “We made a mistake there.”
The family discovered that the fish that Charlie had caught was a pacu, a South American fish that is a piranha’s cousin. The pacu is mostly a vegetarian with square teeth and a small overbite, in contrast to its omnivorous relatives with razor-sharp teeth and an underbite.
Wildlife experts are still baffled as to how it ended up in the pond in a suburb north of Oklahoma City. They assume it was a pet that outgrew its tank and was thrown into the wild.
Addressing the previous owner of the fish, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) wrote on Twitter: “Dear, whoever released an entire Pacu (a South American fish closely related to Piranha) into a NEIGHBORHOOD pond; how dare you.”
The Tweet sparked debate in the online community, with many people taken aback by its bluntness.
“WHY DOES IT HAVE HUMAN TEETH,” one confused user asked.
“IDK WE DIDN’T MAKE THEM,” replied ODWC, that delivered another message: “Your fish was caught by Charlie Clinton. He is 11. DO NOT RELEASE YOUR PETS. THEY ARE AN EXOTIC, INVASIVE SPECIES THAT CAN CAUSE DAMAGE TO OUR LOCAL ECOSYSTEMS.” This could lead to such a horrific situation that could be very damaging to the environment.
This was not Oklahoma’s first pacu to be discovered. Kennedy Smith, then 11 years old, retrieved a pacu from Marina Cove at Ft. Cobb Lake in July 2018. This location is not far from the Clintons.
At the time, Oklahoma Game Wardens posted a warning on Facebook that said: “…Pacu have been caught in a few fisheries in Oklahoma before. The introduction of the non-native pacu into Oklahoma waters is most likely from individuals buying them as pets and releasing them when they outgrow the tank they were raised in. Pacu can reach sizes up to 3.5 feet and 88 pounds.”
Even though these repulsive fish are usually safe for humans, they have the unsettling moniker “the ball cutters.” When a pacu was discovered in the Oresund Sound in 2011, a warning was sent to Swedes who were skinny bathing.
“There have been incidents in other countries such as Papau New Guinea, where some men have had their testicles bitten off,” said fish expert Henrik Carl, who added fisherman have reportedly bled to death after having their testicles bitten off.
Carl continued: “They bite because they’re hungry, and testicles sit nicely in their mouth…” He added, “It normally eats nuts, fruit and small fish, but human testicles are just a natural target.”
Charlie, who is still in Oklahoma, has been pursuing the pacu at the pond in an effort to lure it one final time.
“He did stay at the ponds pretty late that night trying to catch it again,” Janna said of her son who, hoping for a prized catch, is fishing from early morning until late at night. “If he catches it again, we’re going to get it mounted for him. I think that’s a heck of a prize and he deserves it…I told him we’d make it look like the fish was smiling so you could see its teeth.”
Pacu is a very unsettling fish! Even still, we feel bad for the animal that was taken from its natural home and then abandoned when its owner was unable to take care of it. For a number of reasons, namely the harm it does to the ecology, this practise is not safe.
What do you think of the “ball cutter?”