HOUSTON—Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say a fish caught by a 5-year-old girl in a suburban Houston lake last month was a red-bellied piranha. It’s only the second piranha ever verified in Texas waters and the first in nearly 30 years.
The hand-sized fish chomped down on piece of hot dog used as bait at the 23-acre lake at Harris County’s Tom Bass Park.
Christi Schutte said it was the first time her 5-year-old daughter, Lindsay, had ever been fishing. After about an hour or so with no bites, she caught the creepy critter.
"I waited until I got one and then I got one," Lindsay said.
Schutte said she didn’t know what kind of a fish it was, but she managed to get it off the hook and into a bucket of water.
Schutte said her 6-year-old son, Jack, tried to pick the fish up out the bucket and examine it, but the fish bit him.
"It bit him deep and he bled really bad," she said. "It had big teeth. Bigger than I've ever seen.”
Unnerved by the fish’s razor-sharp teeth, Schutte said she called Bass Pro Shop in Pearland to see if they could help her identify it. Schutte said an employee there told her there were no biting fish in Texas. Schutte told Bass Pro Shop employee Michael Cook that she thought the fish kind of looked like a piranha, so Cook told her to bring it in.
Schutte said when she got it into Bass Pro Shop, they all agreed that it looked like a piranha, so they turned it over to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
As it turns out, they were right.
Parks officials told the Houston Chronicle the notoriously aggressive meat-eating fish likely was dumped in the lake by an aquarium owner. The fish is illegal in Texas but officials say it’s easily obtainable on the Internet. The only other verified Texas piranha came in Kendall County in 1982.
Meanwhile, Schutte said Lindsay is anxiously awaiting a special certificate from Texas Parks and Wildlife, recognizing her very first – and very unusual – catch.