Waterloo man reels in piranha from Wapsi River - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo man reels in piranha from Wapsi River

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Imagine going to your favorite lake or river to go fishing and making an unexpected catch.  That's what happened recently to one Waterloo man when he reeled in a piranha. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, Jim Heronimus and his wife were spending some time at their cabin near Littleton fishing, when late one night, Jim started feeling quite a heavy tug on his line.  And he was quite shocked to see what was hanging on the other end.

Jim recently retired and loves to spend his newfound free time fishing along the Wapsipinicon River.  Recently, he reeled in the catch of a lifetime.

"I've caught king salmon at Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 25 and 30 pounders, but this old boy here, that was a fight.  That was a fight," Heronimus said.

That's because a piranha was on the other end of his line.

"We netted him and didn't know what it was and it was a shock to find out what it really was," Heronimus said.

Occasionally, piranhas will appear in Iowa Rivers after being illegally dumped by someone who owned one as a pet.

"Oh for the person catching it, you have to smile at what he found on the end of his line.  But it's just not something we want to happen all the time because that means people are dumping them at the wrong time, wrong place anyway," said Joe Wilkinson with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Though the general public isn't in danger of getting bitten by piranhas in Iowa, reeling in the sharp-toothed fish was enough to scare Heronimus into staying out of the water.

"Yeah!  I haven't been in the water since.  It's a once in a lifetime fish.  And I hope and pray I never catch another one like it because three heart attacks is enough for me.  I don't need anymore!" he said.

But he is hanging onto the piranha so it can be mounted, making this fish story one he'll always remember.

Experts say it's unusual to catch piranhas in Iowa waters because they'll often die after being exposed to cooler temperatures.  But if you do reel one in, do not release it back into the water in order to keep other wildlife safe. 

It is illegal to dump any fish in a lake or river that's not native to Iowa waters.  Anyone caught doing so can face stiff fines. 

Additional facts:

Piranhas are usually found naturally in the rivers of South America.  While they are known for their teeth and feeding frenzies, experts say their threat to humans is largely exaggerated.  Most adult piranhas, depending on the species, eat fruit, seeds, and other fish.  Piranhas usually attack animals smaller than themselves, although schools have fed on animals as large as horses.  Some human deaths, though, have occurred.

Online reporter:  Kera Mashek

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