Man Finds Piranha Relative in Maquoketa River

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter


By Forrest Saunders

MANCHESTER, Iowa - About three weeks ago, Kory Wulfekuhle was bow fishing the Maquoketa River, near Manchester, when his arrow struck a strange fish.

"As I started reeling it in, I noticed right away something was not right," said Wulfekuhle.

It had bright colors, odd fins, a weird body shape, and teeth about like a set of dentures. "Pretty creepy looking," said Wulfekuhle.

Creepy enough he had the Iowa DNR look into it. Turns out it's a South American fish called a pacu.

"They live in the Amazon, and the tributary rivers of the Amazon. They're related to piranha," said Greg Gelwicks, a biologist with the Iowa DNR.

Yes, he said piranha. But unlike its cousin, this fish has a light appetite for seeds, bugs, and worms.

"I don't believe anybody's ever caught anything like this around here," said Wulfekuhle.

Gelwicks said Iowa has seen a few over the years, one recently in the Cedar River. He said pacu can't survive the state’s winters, so he thinks people are keeping them as pets, then dumping them when they outgrow aquariums.

"They decide they don't want to kill it so they let it go into the water," said Gelwicks.

Gelwicks said that's a bad idea. Not only is it illegal, a potential fine of $500, but the pacu aren't native and could upset the ecosystem by creating competition for food, or carrying disease. Not Kory’s, though.

"It's unique," said Wulfekuhle. He’s keeping it, and having it mounted as a trophy. "It's not something that everybody can say, 'I caught a pacu in the Maqouketa River in Iowa'," said Wulfekuhle.

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