Pacu fish at Lake Elsinore


Mar 11, 2001
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A what was caught where?

July 4, 2002

By DAVE STREGE, The Orange County Register

From the exotic fish file comes the pacu fish, a cousin of the piranha that lives in the rainforests of the Amazon Basin in South America.

From the just-wondering file comes this question: What the heck was a 2-pound pacu fish doing on the stringer of a catfish angler at Lake Elsinore?

On the heels of the surprising catch of a 24-pound striped bass at Lake Elsinore comes the more shocking landing of a pacu fish at the lake.

The angler caught the fish on a nightcrawler, put it on a stringer and took it to Whiskers Bait and Tackle to show his friend, owner Bill Tucker.

"I told him it was a pacu fish," Tucker said.

How did he know?

Tucker used to own tropical fish stores and recognized the cousin to the piranha right away. He said a 6-pound pacu fish was caught at nearby Canyon Lake three or four years ago.

"They're good eating," he said. "They eat them in South America."

Unlike its piranha cousin, the pacu fish has blunt teeth and eats plankton, and, apparently, nightcrawlers.

How one got into Lake Elsinore is actually not that big of a mystery. Tucker said people buy the tropical fish when they are an inch or two and release them when they outgrow the aquarium.

Some pacu fish can grow to 65 pounds.

The 2-pound pacu fish is now in Tucker's freezer. He's considering having it mounted.

Another striper: The commercial fisherman hired to remove carp from Lake Elsinore discovered a 20-pound striped bass in his net Monday. He released it back into the lake.

"We don't know what to think," lake manager Pat Kilroy said. "How many stripers are in here?"

Incidentally, the commercial fisherman completed his work for the season. In 52 days of netting, he removed 124,000 pounds of carp.


Well-known member
Mar 19, 2001
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I've seen two of these pacu's caught here in the Marysville area in the last few years.  My neighbor caught one last year, and showed it to me.  He was drifting a nigthcrawler in the Feather River.  He had no idea what it was so he took it to a local bait shop,who called DFG.  The local paper heard about it and did a little story about it also.
The other one I saw, was caught in Ellis Lake in the middle of downtown Marysville durring a kids fishing derby @ five years ago.  We were there for the derby and we heard a piranha had been caught so we when over for a look .  Turn out to be a pacu @ 4 1/2 lbs.  As I recall that was the bigest fish of the day, and got a mention in the paper also.
The one my neighbor caught was @ 3 lbs.  They do have real teeth, kinda look like human front teeth.

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