Fishermen land piranhas in Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake

Conservation officer service confirms two red-bellied piranhas caught in Westwood Lake this year

It wasn’t quite like a scene from the Piranha movie series, but two fishermen were surprised when they caught something much different from the rainbow trout they were angling for.

Sam Cho, a Nanaimo sport fisherman, said he’d recommended Thomas Lee and Lee’s friend try their luck catching trout at Westwood Lake on Monday. The university students were fishing from the bluff rocks in Westwood Lake, one of Nanaimo’s most popular summertime swimming areas, when something hit Lee’s bait and he reeled in what appeared to be a piranha.

The novice anglers, not certain what kind of fish it was, took pictures with a cell phone and sent them to Cho.

“They sent the pictures to me to confirm what this is. They thought it was a piranha, so I confirmed, yes, it’s a piranha,” Cho said.

He recommended Lee file a report with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and put the fish in their refrigerator at home so conservation officers could study the remains.

The B.C. Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources did not have anyone available for comment, but did confirm in an e-mail Friday that the fish was positively identified as a red-bellied piranha.

Cho said he has spoken with other anglers who told him they caught a fish that looked like a piranha in Westwood Lake earlier in the year. The ministry also confirmed that incident, from late July, when the fish was submitted to ministry staff and also identified as a red-bellied piranha.

“[Fishermen] worry about them spreading through the lake because if somebody caught one before, it’s not only one fish, so that’s a big concern and then if a piranha really found a mate over there maybe it’s dangerous to the kids,” Cho said.

READ ALSO: What’s so great about Westwood Lake?

Tristan Robbins, manager of Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C.’s Vancouver Island Trout Hatchery in Duncan, expressed surprise at the news of the catch. The hatchery stocks central Vancouver Island lakes, including Westwood, with catchable size rainbow trout twice each year.

“We typically don’t encounter [piranhas], but we do hear these random sporadic stories of it and just speaks to how the public needs to be better educated on moving invasive species … I assume that’s an aquarium fish that somebody’s released thinking that’s somewhere their pet would do well,” Robbins said.

Robbins said piranhas are warm water fish and likely would not fare well in temperatures under 24 C.

“They’d be OK over the summer, but as soon as winter comes I don’t think that thing would be very likely to survive … but in the summer months they could wreak a lot of havoc just by eating all the fish in there,” he said.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service e-mail also confirmed piranhas can’t survive Nanaimo’s winter temperatures and that there has been no opportunity to study the potential impact of piranhas as an invasive species in Canada or the U.S. since the fish haven’t successfully established themselves in the 13 U.S. states they’ve been detected, which all have warmer water temperatures than in Canada.

As for being a threat to humans, that risk also appears low.

“The red-bellied piranha does have the reputation of being an aggressive predator to humans. While care should be taken when handling them live, the risk to humans is low,” the e-mail noted.

The BCCOS also said the piranhas were likely aquarium fish dumped in the lake, and cautioned the public to never buy aquarium fish from overseas and also to ensure fish and other aquarium plants and rocks are not invasive before buying. Also, unwanted aquarium pets should be donated to a local pet store, other fish owners, fish clubs, schools, nursing homes, or offices and never dumped or flushed into local waterways. Diseased fish cannot be donated and should be humanely euthanized and disposed of in a landfill.

“Persons convicted for a first offence of the illegal movement of aquatic invasive species could be fined up to $100,000 and/or a prison term of up to 12 months, and for a second offence a fine of not more than $200,000 and not less than $2,000 and/or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years,” the e-mail noted.

People who suspect they’ve caught an introduced species are asked to report it to the nearest Forest, Land and Natural Resources office or call the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line at 1-877-952-7277.

Lee, who has returned to university in Ontario, has not replied to a request for an interview, but Cho said the piranha, landed Tuesday, was caught with yellow-orange PowerBait, intended for trout, on a line and sinker.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo beekeepers take down nest of giant hornets



photos@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service confirmed this fish caught in Westwood Lake this week was a red-bellied piranha and is the second piranha caught in the lake this year. (Photo submitted)

Just Posted

A monument was unveiled during a ceremony in Tofino last week honouring Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka. The monument will be placed on Hwy. 4 near Kennedy Lake. (Photo courtesy of Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC)
In the line of duty: Remembering two beloved Vancouver Island paramedics

Sombre ceremony held in Tofino to mark 10th anniversary of fatal Kennedy Lake ambulance crash

Adam Ireton holds his son Weston, along with Kristen and Beckett as they celebrate Weston's last day of treatment for lukemia. (Kristen Ireton photo)
799 days: ‘Super’ Weston defeats cancer

North Island kid celebrating the end of a battle that has taken up the bulk of his life

Artists, activists and supporters stand at the ‘More Justice, More Peace’ mural in Victoria’s Bastion Square after the letter ‘S’ was painted over in black. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
ACAB removed from Victoria’s More Justice, More Peace mural

New message points to VicPD, City of Victoria for silencing BIPOC voices

(file)
Province rejects Parksville needle bylaw as counter-productive to health and safety

Mayor says he fails to understand the logic against proposed limits on hypodermic distribution

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Newly public Emily Carr painting depicts well-known Victoria view

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

According to a Nanaimo RCMP press release, Jason Klughart, 28, was arrested at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday at Port Place Shopping Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
RCMP officer and security guard team up to detain suspect after chase in downtown Nanaimo

Jason Klughart arrested on outstanding warrant for possession of stolen property

Victoria police are asking for people's help identifying the suspect of a sexual assault that occurred early Oct. 29. (Black Press Media file photo)
VicPD searching for suspect in sexual assault incident

A woman was sexually assaulted at the 800-block of Cormorant Street just before 4 a.m. Oct. 29

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

This house in the 600-block of Linden Avenue in Fairfield has a Día de Muertos theme for 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Haunted Oak Bay

Residents spookify houses

Most Read