PHOTO: Angler Mysteriously Snags Piranha in North Carolina Lake

This was not your usual day of fishing. According to wildlife officials, a fisherman pulled a piranha from a North Carolina lake. On his son’s birthday, Chad Ray from Aberdeen was at the lake fishing with his family when two other fishermen approached him and showed him the fish they had caught. He took the fish home and stored it in his freezer, Southern Living reports. He then posted about the catch on Facebook where it amassed more than 20,000 views.

If you were to see a carnivorous fish being pulled out of a local lake, it might look like the start of a sci-fi movie. However, the experts say this lone piranha is not dangerous. They believe that the fish was probably kept as a pet. Once it got too big for its tank it was illegally thrown into the lake by its owner. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission shared a photo of the piranha that was recently caught.

After the Rays posted pictures of their trip to the lake on Facebook Saturday, Adam Crocker, Aberdeen’s Parks and Recreation Director, received a lot of phone calls. On Monday morning, he asked the resident “fish expert” in Parks and Rec about the strange catch. The expert assured him it was an anomaly. “I have verification that there’s no way a piranha could have come to Aberdeen Lake on its own,” he explained.

More experts weigh in on the lone piranha

Garrett A. Gooch, Wildlife Officer in the Law Enforcement Division of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission agrees. “I do want to confirm that through our office, this photo has been verified to be real, he said. “It has not been altered in any way,” he added.

Troy Thompson is a biologist with the title of “District Six Fisheries Biologist 1” for NC Wildlife. He agrees with both Crocker and Gooch. “Someone had to assist in our piranha’s arrival. And if you are wondering about it getting here via flushing of a toilet, no.”

Thompson has formulated a theory on the piranha’s path. “Whoever had this fish likely had other exotic fish. Let’s say you have a big aquarium and you pay a lot of money for all these fish. Exotic fish are not cheap. Then, this little guy starts nibbling on the tail of another fish, because that is what they do, they are literally known for that. That’s the fish that you just paid big bucks for because of its beautiful tail. You are going to be mad. But you don’t really want to kill him because you are a fish guy. You can’t risk giving him away because they are illegal. I bet however many piranhas that person owned are out there.”

Not for long, though. Thompson, Gooch, and Crocker were adamant that a fish native to the Amazon River could not survive in North Carolina’s winter. Crocker was also leaning in favor of the “donate and run” theory. “Every spring, we have people who drop their ducks off and drive off. I guess it seems like the nice thing to do. Except it isn’t.”