PROVO — Don't worry, Utah Lake regulars. The toothy fish pulled recently from the lake was a piranha look-alike.
Instead of the feared carnivorous fish, the 1 1/2 pounder hooked last week was identified Tuesday as a pacu, said Scott Root, outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
Fisherman Scott Clements, 62, who reeled in the fish near the Provo boat harbor, thought something amiss when he noticed a row of incisors on his 13-inch catch.
He called the DWR, which came and took the fish. Root wasn't able to see the fish until Tuesday but, upon seeing it, quickly noted the difference.
"The main difference is (that) a piranha has an underbite whereas the pacu has almost more of an overbite," Root said.
Pacu are traditionally vegetarians and use their teeth to cut through vegetation, Root said. Pacu occasionally also might eat other fish.
The tropical fish was probably dropped into Utah Lake by a naive aquarium owner who became overwhelmed when the fish, which can be purchased, started growing from 3 inches toward its fully grown size of 30 inches, Root said.
"This is the second time I've heard of (pacu) in Utah Lake," Root said. "What happens is people don't know what to do with them. They can't kill them — they don't have the heart. So they do something even worse and put them in some water somewhere."
Root said there aren't any reports of anyone being bitten and he doubts there are more pacu in the lake.
But it's a logical story, says Adam Jensen, assistant manager at Where's Nemo, a pet store in American Fork. Once the fish start growing too large, people start dumping them.