Fanged fish found in a NE Modesto lake last week is a pacu

spectr17

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Fish's teeth bare the answer.

By SHIRLEY DANG, MODESTO BEE STAFF WRITER
(Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2001)

  The fanged fish found in a northeast Modesto lake last week is a pacu, a fruit- and nut-munching relative of the meat-eating piranha, a state game warden said Monday.

  And although the fish might be harmless, the discovery might put an end to fishing at the man-made lake, a state Fish and Game Department spokesman said.

  Modesto's Chuckie Phillips, 12, hooked the piranha look-alike last Tuesday and showed it to his parents, who called authorities. A game warden confiscated the toothsome fish so it could be identified by biologists.

  After the initial catch, Phillips and his fishing buddy, Julian Ferlaak, 12, caught four more. They threw three back but kept one and put it in a freezer.

  "They all look really similar," said Robb Tibstra, fishery biologist at the department's regional headquarters in Fresno.

  Both fish are shaped like silver dinner plates and have fiercely jutting teeth. But their dental work is what sets them apart.

  Piranhas have razor-sharp, triangular teeth -- one row on top and one on the bottom, Tibstra said. Pacu jaws house molar-shaped teeth on the bottom and two rows of pointy teeth on top.

  Pacus use their flat teeth to grind nuts and fruit that make their way into the water. Piranhas prefer to devour other fish, insects, and dead or dying flesh.

  Piranhas are illegal in California. Many people buy the more flesh-friendly pacu for their aquariums. When owners become tired of the fish, they often throw them in lakes or rivers, Tibstra said.

  After word of the catches became public, Fish and Game officials and Modesto police posted signs and yellow tape around the lake warning people to stay away.

  "We're going to keep the signs up until we get a report that there aren't any real piranha in there," Fish and Game spokesman Steve Martarano said.

  In the unlikely event the remaining fish are piranhas, game warden Hugh Rutherford said, they won't be around for long. "As soon as that lake starts getting cold, those fish are going to die off."

  Still, police will leave up signs prohibiting activity around the privately owned 3-acre lake.

  The man-made lake, owned by Wendell Naraghi, is a favorite fishing spot for children, but also an attraction for vagrants, Rutherford said. Authorities are planning on stepping up security there.

  "The days of people showing up and fishing in Naraghi Lake are over," Rutherford said.

  Anyone caught dumping nonnative fish in a lake or waterway can expect up to $1,000 in fines for the misdemeanor and-or six months in jail.

  Bee reporter Shirley Dang can be reached at 578-2330 or sdang@modbee.com.
 

karstic

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  The fanged fish found in a northeast Modesto lake last week is a pacu, a fruit- and nut-munching relative of the meat-eating piranha, a state game warden said Monday.

Maybe we should let some loose in the California State Legislature!!
 
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