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1 June 2013 / leggypeggy

The piranhas didn’t have a chance


Look at those choppers!

Piranhas ‘are the most ferocious fish in the world. Even the most formidable fish, the sharks or the barracudas, usually attack things smaller than themselves. But the piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves. They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers—in every river town in Paraguay there are men who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites them to madness. They will tear wounded wild fowl to pieces; and bite off the tails of big fish as they grow exhausted when fighting after being hooked.’

Piranha fishing

Rael on her fifth 

Piranha fishing

Julia catches her first

That’s what US President Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his book Through the Brazilian Wilderness. He’d been in Brazil on a hunting expedition in 1913 and witnessed a shocking spectacle. Local fisherman had blocked off part of the Amazon River and starved the imprisoned piranhas for several days before Teddy arrived. They then pushed a cow into the water, where it was instantly torn apart by the hungry fish.

In reality, piranhas aren’t quite so scary. Usually they are 14 to 26 cm long (5.5–10.25 in), although some have been reported to be up to 43 cm (17 in). Their teeth are razor sharp and they do love meat. Deaths occur every now and then, but victims are likely to be children or a drunk who has fallen into the water. They sometimes bite swimmers, but such bites are usually viewed as an act of carelessness on the part of the swimmer.


A caiman comes to grab a piranha snack

Piranhas are found throughout Brazil in rivers, lakes and coastal areas. Oh, and you are quite likely to see them for sale in a local market. They’re good eaters—and good eating.

So why did I say the piranhas didn’t have a chance? It’s because we spent a morning piranha fishing and took 40 or 50 fish out of the system. It was a matter of dip in a line and pull out a fish.

It was a highlight activity during our Christmas stay at Pousada Santa Clara in the Pantanal. Our catch got cooked up for lunch. It’s a good thing there was plenty of other food, because our fishy victims were pretty small.

We’ll be back in the Pantanal in July as part of our next overland journey, and we’re hoping piranha fishing is on the to-do list.

Piranha fishing, Pantanal

Piranha fishing—sort of like a public service


Leave a Comment
  1. Derrick / Jun 2 2013 12:10 am

    It gives a whole new meaning to ‘Man eating piranha’

    I dont suppose you had chips with them ?

    How about keeping the jaws of them, like they do for sharks ?

    I’d like to give this a try, I have a couple of people I would like to use as bait, but I wont be bringing them along 😦


    • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2013 12:20 am

      You crack me up, Derrick. If you catch one, have it for lunch and save the jaw.


  2. Liz / Jun 2 2013 12:34 am

    I love this post. By the way I didn’t know Piranhas were eaten, I always thought they were so ferocious, nobody touched them. I even imagined them biting in death…thanks for sharing this. I have learnt a lot that I didn’t know and thanks for stopping by my blog!!! have a wonderful weekend.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2013 8:12 am

      Like you Liz, I had no idea piranhas got such a bad rap. When you think of it, how much damage could a 5-inch fish do?


  3. Gary Walker / Jun 2 2013 12:39 am

    As usual, you give a terrific account of your adventures. I will pass on swimming with piranhas, though. I would rather swim with crocodiles. My hillbilly cousin Donald had a pet croc and he was quite friendly. He would swim right up to the bank of the stream that passed through our property and hiss at you until you fed him.

    Of course I mean the croc would hiss until you fed him… Cousin Donald would just bite you and he didn’t swim very well.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2013 8:15 am

      Trust you to have a hillbilly cousin with a croc!


  4. Derrick / Jun 2 2013 1:18 am

    Dave has been banned from traveling until next year (so no bait)

    Having a set of these jaws on the wall is going to look prety silly I think 😦

    Pass me a sandwich and make it snappy, please


    • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2013 8:16 am

      You mean you aren’t scared of the piranhas now or hungry? 🙂


  5. Deepti Goswami / Jun 2 2013 4:18 am

    nice to know that we can eat piranha…I didn’t know that piranhas were eaten.. i would love to taste them but obviously i will have to be very careful other wise instead of enjoying piranha as a meal I would become meal of it 😛
    ha ha ha ha…


    • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2013 8:17 am

      They’re tasty, but very small. So you’d need to have lots on your plates.


      • Derrick / Jun 2 2013 8:18 am

        We shall have to see when we get there 🙂


      • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2013 8:23 am



  6. Joanne T Ferguson (@mickeydownunder) / Jun 2 2013 11:29 am

    G’day! Am already looking forward to yours and poor John’s trip too! Piranhas…..taste like chicken too lol lol lol


    • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2013 1:01 pm

      Taste like chicken? Not sure! I think they taste like piranha. hahaha


  7. Darbro / Dec 29 2013 1:08 pm

    Great post! Loving it.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 29 2013 8:18 pm

      Thanks. Another piranha instalment is coming soon.


  8. Stephanae V. McCoy / Sep 4 2016 3:29 am


    Liked by 1 person


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