AUSTIN – A rare catch of a red-breasted piranha in a community lake near Houston recently illustrates the need for prohibition of invasive aquatic species in Texas waters.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials 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.
Dave Terre, management and research chief with TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division, said the 23-acre Tom Bass Park community lake in Pearland on the outskirts of Houston where the piranha was caught on Aug. 27 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 Terre. “Our biologists will do an electrofishing survey of the lake to confirm this.”
Biologists say piranhas are unlikely to be able to over winter and they will not reproduce.
Terre said it is possible someone held this specimen in captivity illegally and disposed of the fish in the lake.
Game wardens remind individuals that first offense for possession of prohibited fish species is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, with a maximum $500 fine. Subsequent convictions are Class B and Class A misdemeanors, which could carry jail time and heftier fines. Anyone caught releasing a live, prohibited fish in Texas faces a Class B misdemeanor for first offense, and repeated offenses can bring state-jail felony charges.
If someone catches a fish that they cannot identify or suspect may be an exotic species they should not return it to the water, handle it with caution, and contact their local game warden or TPWD fisheries office.