Piranha Caught in Houston Lake
Texas lakes and waterways -- that once were good places to fish and swim -- aren't as fun or safe as they used to be. State officials say more and more dangerous exotic fish are turning up. The latest is a real live meat-eating piranha, caught, in of all places, a recreational lake at a county park outside Houston.
The carnivorous fish was caught by a young child fishing in the lake at Tom Bass Park off Houston's Beltway 8 in southeast Harris County. She didn't know what she had caught, but the grownups with her knew what it was, and they contacted the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which confirmed their suspicions.
It was a piranha -- the stuff of legends and horror movies, with their aggressive carnivore behavior and teeth that rip their victims apart.
This was only the second verified piranha known to have been found in Texas waters. The other piranha documented in Texas was taken in 1982 from Boerne City Reservoir in Kendall County.
But it's a good bet it won't be the last.
It's against Texas law to possess or release live piranhas and dozens of other exotic, harmful or potentially harmful fish species. Yet every year, increasing numbers of prohibited fish, which can do great harm to native fish and their ecosystems are discovered in Texas waters.
Most come into Texas through the aquarium trade, and end up in Texas waters when owners get tired of them. Officials say that's probably how this piranha came to be in Tom Bass Park.
Piranha aren't the only illegal fish state officials worry about. They say prohibited species released into Texas waters can establish self-sustaining populations that could outcompete, prey on and overwhelm native species.
Already, a number of exotic invasive fish - armored catfish, tilapia and grass carp - have established themselves in Texas waters and have done a lot of damage to freshwater ecosystems.