In South America, pacu fish are everywhere.
For many anglers, South American waters are a bucket list location for freshwater fish. Mostly because the jungle floodplains and river basins of Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, and more are home to many species of fish found nowhere else on the planet. One of the more common species is a fascinating omnivore called the pacu.
This fish is a legend for its mouth full of human-like teeth that resemble back molars. These fish are found all over South America and grow to large sizes, presenting a great fight for any angler looking to tangle with them.
This short film highlights just how much fun it is to target these fish while fly fishing the Amazon River in Bolivia.
This species is sometimes called the "vegetarian piranha." Mostly because of those "human teeth." The two species are related, and it is true that pacus are herbivores most of the time. However, these fish will not hesitate to eat small fish, insects, and other small animals that present an opportunity for an easy meal. Somehow, the pacu got the nickname "ball-cutter" because someone started a rumor the fish like to bite human testicles. These stories however seem to be nothing more than urban legend.
While the name pacu refers to several different species of fish, the two species of pacu most people know are the black pacu, also known as the tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) and the piaractus, also known as the red-bellied pacu (piaractus brachypomus).
These tropical fish have proven popular in the home aquarium trade. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the fish being introduced into some ecosystems here in the United States, becoming an invasive species. Most wildlife agencies believe the fish get introduced illegally when aquarists release their pets when they get too large for the fish tank. Every year, anglers will pull these from waters where they were not expecting to find a pet store fish. While that is not as much of a problem in northern waters like New Jersey, or New York because the fish cannot survive the cold of winter, it creates problems when they are introduced to warm waters in a place like Florida.
The pacu is a fun species to target, but we hope most angling opportunities will stay in South America where they belong.