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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Piranha found in Forge -- for real

BEWARE OF THE BOG PIRANHA: Sport editor Rick Mellerup first alerted me to wild and wacky things being caught in Stafford Forge lake. Check his story in this issue.

Seems piranha – or at-least piranha-type hard-biting foreign fish – are now being caught in “The Forge,” as the main lake is commonly called. A number of piranhas were recently taken by an angler using Bass Stoppers, a favorite freshwater rig.

And these weren’t minor models of this highly nonindigenous species, undoubtedly released aquarium fish. One piranha was way hefty.

Fish and Wildlife Officer Wayne Tonnesen was patrolling the Forge area shortly after that bigger fish was caught and placed in a bucket. When the angler asked Wayne to identify his hookup, the officer figured it was one of those simple “bass,” “pickerel,” or “sunny” things. When he looked in the bucket his initial ID was “Whoa.”

It sure looked like a piranha to Wayne. He took some photos and got the odd catch into the system.

The angler then took the fierce-looking fish to the nearby Chum Bucket bait and tackle shack, where he regularly baits up.

Chatting with the friendly folks there, I was told the large exotic (the expression used by pet shops to identify foreign fish) was brought in when the tiny shop was packed. It was only given a quick glance. To folks at the shop, it also resembled an oscar, another highly popular aquarium fish with a reputation for sucking down anything that gets near it. No photos were taken.

A final ID will soon be made.

Be it a piranha or close relative, it is surely a tank-buster -- any aquarium fish that rapidly outgrows it tank. Such fast-growers invite potentially catastrophic release into the wild. It is almost always very bad news when foreign fish begin confidently frolicking in a world where they have no natural enemies and can wipeout local fish species in a ravenous heartbeat -- then climb out onto land to begin terrorizing local villages. Hey, what can I say, it’s Monster Week on cable. Besides, you might recall the recent finding of snakehead fish in Maryland. Those fierce fish are known to leave the water to try hitching a ride to other lakes.

So what’s to be done when foreign fish arrive, as they have at The Forge? Here’s where it gets even weirder.

According to Tonessen, the state can consider electrifying an entire lake. This seemingly extreme action doesn’t kill the fish, it just stuns them to the surface, where they can be collected – and removed if they don’t have green cards.

Hey, I’m wondering if the electroshocked fish are all real mellow after being released, many able to finally go off their Prozac?

Whatever, that lake electrifying is already being done by scientists collecting NJ fish as part of a mercury study. The technique has been used nationwide to remove unwanted watery things, including undesirable hybrid trout in Montana and zebra mussels in Great Lake power plants. I’ve considered trying it around the inlet, you know, just pick a few choice fluke for dinner then turn down the voltage.

As to the full potential of piranha ravaging The Forge, it might be best to wait out the winter. These are generally tropical species and those waters freeze solid every winter. Hey, if they make it through, they’re then considered locals and can apply for residency.

For me, this entire tale is an instant invite to get over there before the electrifying commences. You can’t tell me you don’t want to feel a piranha hit your plug. Probably feels like chicken.

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