Fish was not a piranha

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. -- The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said Wednesday that a fish caught in the Catawba River and initially identified as a piranha was actually a close relative, the pacu.

The fish was caught June 28 by Gastonia, N.C., angler Jerry Melton, who said he at first was told the fish was a piranha. But Jacob Rash, a state Wildlife Resources biologist, said Wednesday he met with Melton July 6, examined the fish and correctly identified it as a pacu.

"They look very similar and can be hard to tell apart," Rash said. "The telling sign is that pacus have two rows of molars on their upper jaw where piranhas have a single row of sharp teeth."

Melton said he caught it while fishing for catfish near N.C. 27 in Mount Holly.

Pacus, which are omnivorous but normally eat fruit, pose little threat to humans, Rash said. But he said non-native species potentially can harm resident fish populations when introduced into local waters.

Melton said wildlife officials told him that "by taking that fish out of the water, I had done a good thing."

• For more information on fishing in public inland waters, contact the Division of Inland Fisheries at 919-707-0220 or visit the commission's Web site at www.ncwildlife.org.