The fish of the day on Kennedy Smith’s recent fishing trip to Fort Cobb Lake had a stronger-than-average bite.
It was equipped with a full set of teeth.
The 11-year-old girl from Lindsay, Okla. was just happy that something finally tugged on her line Sunday, until the thin, round fish bit her grandmother while the grandmother took the hook out of its mouth, according to the Associated Press.
“I was confused because I knew that fish with teeth are not normal,” Smith told the AP “It was weird, creepy. They were human-like and that made it even weirder.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
So they called their local game warden. Could Smith have possibly caught a piranha? In Oklahoma?
What she had on the line was actually a close relative of the piranha, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Services. It’s called a pacu — and it’s also native to South America. So how’d this one get all the way to Oklahoma?
Oklahoma game wardens say that the exotic fish are legal to sell in pet stores, but that they outgrow people’s fish tanks so quickly that some have simply gotten rid of their pet fish — into lakes or streams. The department warned against that in its Facebook post announcing Smith’s catch.
“They are an exotic, invasive species that can cause damage to our local ecosystems,” it said. Pacu “can reach sizes of up to 3.5 feet and 88 pounds,” and Oklahoma game wardens receive receive pacu calls “once every three or four years.”
They’re omnivores — meaning they eat both plants and smaller fish — like their cousin fish the piranha. But unlike the piranha, the pacu can survive the Oklahoma winter, far colder than its native climes in South America, according to the Oklahoman.
Anyone who catches the rare, toothy fish is advised to call their local game warden, like Smith and her family did. After the photo-ops and the chomp on her grandmother’s finger, the pacu that Smith caught was destroyed, according to the AP.