Texas is reminding folks that keeping piranhas as pets is a no-no. The warning this week comes after a 5-year-old girl on her first fishing expedition hooked a red-bellied piranha at a lake near Houston.
Lindsay Schutte used a hot dog to lure her unique prize.Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
"When I took the hook out of the mouth and saw it had pretty big teeth I was concerned, but I'm in Texas so I don't know, there could be fish like that," Christi Schutte, Lindsay's mom and a recent transplant from California, told NBC affiliate KPRC-TV.
But when the fish bit Lindsay's brother, the family decided to notify the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which killed the fish and then froze it for further study.
"An actual piranha is a VERY rare occurrence in the wild — only 2 documented specimens in 30 years — and possessing and releasing live piranhas and dozens of other exotic, harmful or potentially harmful fish species is prohibited by Texas law," the department said in a statement on Monday.
The department emphasized that the Tom Bass Park lake "remains a great place to go fishing and is completely safe to go fishing there."
"We strongly believe that this is an isolated catch," said the department's Dave Terre.
Natives of tropical waters in South America, piranhas are unlikely to be able to survive a Texas winter, the department noted.
The caught specimen was possibly held as a pet by someone who then tried to get rid of it in the lake, Terre said.
The department also noted that a first offense for possessing or releasing outlawed fish in Texas can mean a $500 fine. Repeat offenses can lead to jail time and heftier fines.
Piranhas have a reputation far greater than their size, which typically ranges from 5 to 10 inches. Contrary to movies and popular culture, piranhas don't typically swarm together to gobble up much larger prey in seconds.
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