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Pacu found in Lake Lou Yaeger no threat to anglers or swimmers

July 09, 2012 at 01:41 PM

The State Journal-Register

The story of a tropical fish caught in Litchfield’s Lake Lou Yaeger is making waves on the Internet, but the lake superintendent says a Pacu is no threat to boaters, fishermen or swimmers.

The Pacu is a tropical fish that has become infamous for reports that it has attacked male swimmers, eating their testicles.

“That’s the beauty of the Internet,” said lake superintendent Jim Cadwell. “There is no definitive proof that ever happened.”

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources receives sporadic reports of tropical fish caught every summer.

“And we’ve never heard of any instance where those fish have bitten a human here in Illinois,” said DNR spokesman Tim Schweizer.

Cadwell said anglers fishing for catfish landed the first Pacu, a fish that can weigh up to 50 pounds, on June 7.

The fish have teeth that look a lot like human molars.

A second fish was later caught in the same part of the lake.

“We get thousands of fishermen a week, and there haven’t been any problems (since the two fish were caught).”

Another Pacu was caught at Rock Cut State Park near Rockford last Friday.

A DNR fisheries biologist identified it from photos.

“We generally use this as a chance to remind people, if it’s not a fish you find in Illinois waters, don’t put it in the water,” Schweizer said. “It’s not a danger to humans, but anytime you dump anything that’s not native, it’s not a good thing.”

Schweizer said tropical fish caught in Illinois usually are pets that simply grew too large.

“Whether they outgrew their aquarium or not, that’s not the right way to dispose of them.”

People should not move any fish, native or not, from one body of water to another to avoid spreading diseases.

In the case of tropical fish, pet owners are just postponing the fish’s demise.

“They think they might be taking the easy way out, in putting it in a pond, lake or river,” he said. “But in the case of a tropical fish, at the first cold snap, they are going to die.

“It’s not the way to get rid of a pet you no longer want or can keep.”

Reached on Monday, his day off, Cadwell said he was preparing a boat to take his kids tubing on the lake.

“I’m taking my kids swimming,” he said. “If I honestly felt there was any problem we wouldn’t be doing it.”

Cadwell said there is a simple solution for those who believe the stories of testicle-eating fish found on the Internet.

“They shouldn’t be skinny-dipping in the lake anyway,” he said. “Keep your shorts on and you’ll be fine.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

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