Ron Rossi, fisherman in New Jersey recently caught a pacu – a tropical freshwater fish typically found in the waters of the Amazon River. The fish, notoriously referred to as ‘”testicle eating fish” became an overnight internet sensation after British tabloids picked up the story.
The fish got their reputation as “testicle eating fish” after Jeremy Wade featured them on a 2011 episode of his Animal Planet show “River Monsters.” Wade said Amazonian locals told him two men died after they had their testicles bitten off by a fish.
“I had heard of a couple of fishermen in Papua, New Guinea, who had been castrated by something in the water,” Wade said at the time. “The bleeding was so severe that they died. The locals told me that this thing was like a human in the water, biting at the testicles of fishermen. They didn’t know what it was.”
Despite all the panic and fear that the media hype created, turns out pacus are not as deadly as depicted. They are in the same family of fish as the piranha, however they mostly eat plants, supplementing their diet with smaller fish at times, according to the Carroll County News.
They have considerable jaw power, strong enough to crack open tree nuts that fall into the water. But that’s about it.
Pacu fish are usually found in the Amazon but have also been found in various parts of the United States, including a previous spotting in New Jersey, as well as Colorado, California, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Virginia, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
As for the mystery behind how this Amazonian fish ended up in Jersey, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection said the pacu in question likely belonged to a fish hobbyist. These fish are just a few inches long when they are typically purchased. When they reach maturity, however, they can be 3 feet long and more than 40 pounds, earning a reputation as “tank busters.”
“Every once in a while, someone who has bought one of these fish realizes it has outgrown its welcome, gotten too big and they release it into some lake,” department spokesperson Lawrence Hajna told The Huffington Post. “I’m sure that’s what happened here. Any fish like this won’t survive our winters because the waters get too cold.”