Taryn Rowland lands 16-inch pacu on fishing trip at Connected Lakes
In a twist to the dog-bites-man turnabout, a Grand Junction youngster caught a fish that bites back.
Ten-year old Taryn Rowland of Clifton was fishing July 11 with her mother, Colene, at Connected Lakes State Park when the youngster hooked a 16-inch pacu, a South American fish and a cousin to piranha.
Unlike its saw-toothed, meat-eating cousin made infamous in Tarzan lore, pacu are omnivores sometimes called “vegetarian piranha” by pet shops.
The fish have sharp, incisor-like teeth and will bite a finger if provoked, which gave the two Rowlands a hint this wasn’t your normal bluegill from the popular park on Dike Road.
“I was at work when they called me and said, ‘You should see this huge bluegill Taryn caught,’” said Chris Rowland, Taryn’s father and a firefighter with the Clifton Fire Department.
“Later, they sent me another message, ‘It’s got teeth,’” Rowland said. “I looked at the photo and knew it wasn’t a bluegill but wasn’t sure what it was.”
The Rowlands asked Colorado Parks and Wildlife senior ranger Shannon Gregory to identify the fish, and she turned to a Parks and Wildlife aquatics biologist for confirmation.
It’s thought the pacu was released from a private aquarium after outgrowing its container. The fish are prized as a food source in South America, where they can reach 55 pounds.
It’s not unheard of for anglers occasionally to catch an exotic fish from one of the valley’s warm-water lakes. The fish survive for a short time but die when the lakes cool at the end of summer.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said the real threat posed by dumping exotic fish in Colorado’s lakes isn’t being attacked, but rather the possibility of introducing exotic parasites or diseases to the water.
“As far as habitat, we know that some ‘warm-water fish’ can thrive in some of our local waters,” Porras said. “Either way, it is important for people to understand that they should never dump live fish into any body of water.”
Exotic fish also may out-compete native species for food, habitat and other resources.
“The impacts from any species introduced into any body of water can significantly interfere with our management of that fishery, having severe impacts that could take years to mitigate,” Porras said.
Chris Rowland said the family plans to have the fish mounted by a local taxidermist.
“This is a fish story we’ll be telling for years,” he said. “But I don’t think Colene will ever go swimming at Lake Powell again.”