State unable to equal boy's feat of snagging piranha Fish was probably former pet, DNR says PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY

May 14, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

In three hours, a handful of state fishery experts using specialized equipment failed yesterday to duplicate the achievement of a single, 8-year-old boy with a fishing pole: catch a piranha.

Michael McManus of Bowie landed an 11-inch piranha Saturday at Allen Pond Park in Prince George's County. Yesterday morning, he and his father, Steve McManus, watched as state Department of Natural Resources biologists sent mild electrical shocks through the five-acre pond, causing stunned fish to float to the surface where they were examined.

Although the pond appeared to be stocked with trout, large-mouth bass and crappie, officials found no other piranha, a flesh-eating fish native to South America. After a few minutes, the stunned fish recovered and swam away.

"There could be another one or two in there; it's hard to say," said Mel Beaven, area manager for the DNR's Fresh Water Fisheries division. "There certainly isn't a significant school of them in there."

Bob Luncford, DNR Freshwater Fisheries director, said the piranha Michael caught probably came from someone's aquarium: "There are hundreds of reasons people have to get rid of pets."

Although piranha, especially in small numbers, pose little danger to humans, Mr. Luncford said they could upset the lake's ecological balance by eating the other fish. It is illegal to dump exotic fish into public waters, with a maximum $70 fine.

DNR has received at least four other reports of piranha in the pond since the weekend.

However, only the one snagged by Michael, which was being kept yesterday in a pail of water at the pond, is confirmed.

Michael said he tried to tell his friends at school about the piranha on Monday, but they just accused him of telling a fish story.

"So we called the local paper," Mr. McManus said. "It kind of went bananas from there."

Since the DNR confirmed the fish was a piranha Wednesday, Michael has had plenty of practice telling his story. He has been interviewed by four newspapers and eight Baltimore-Washington TV stations.

"I got a nibble [on his fishing line], and I just pulled it in," Michael said. But, once he saw the sharp-toothed grin of the fish on his hook, "I didn't want to touch it or go near it."

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