Black Piranha

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Handling piranha can leave septic blisters on one's fingers.
Animal Planet/DCL

Hooking Piranha

The fish were quite deep down, perhaps because they feel safer there. The first sign they were around was a sharp knocking on the line. But I had to wait for a steady tug before striking. (Sometimes piranha can be almost impossible to catch, cleaning the hook before you react. It’s a bit like a fly easily avoiding the fly swat – because they operate at a much faster speed than us.)

Handling Piranha

Unhooking is the interesting part. Hold the line so the piranha is hanging down, then grip it with the free hand. If it kicks and falls off before you’ve gripped it, and you’re barefoot, keep your feet well clear. Unhooking is best done with a pair of pliers. (Another technique is to unhook the fish in the water – grip the hook with pliers then shake it free.)

These fish at Balbina were just small enough for me to grip one-handed. Any bigger and you’d have to lie the fish down on a soft surface. (Black piranhas can grow to around 8 pounds.) Piranha also have a sharp ridge on the underside of their body, which can cut your hand. After handling these fish I developed deep septic blisters on my fingers, probably a result of the spines along this ridge injecting bacteria-laden slime under my skin.

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