Fishing lines: The fish are biting - count your fingers

A St Helens canal was renowned for the many tropical species you could catch there

Readers of Carl Hiaasen's books on the abuse of Florida's environment will be unsurprised to hear there are now more than 50 non-native species swimming in its lakes, ponds and canals.

We're talking seriously exotic here: mollies, cichlids, guppies, gouramis, siamese fighting fish, angelfish and climbing perch, plus oddball catfish such as the ripsaw, granulated and bristlecheek. You can buy fresh tilapia, once only found in Africa, in any Florida fish market.

Good news or bad for anglers? Well, the chance to catch arawana or peacock bass seems, sadly, to have overriden their environmental concerns. Many guides now run trips to catch peacock bass. Dangle a line in certain Florida waterways and you may even catch a piranha. To my knowledge, three species have been recorded there.

So what relevance does this have for British anglers? More than you think. The discovery of a dead red-bellied piranha on a Thames Water barge at Dagenham last week may be just the tip of a foreign invasion.

The theory is that a pet owner dumped it in the Thames but the fish turned belly-up, whereupon a seagull spotted it. A Thames Water spokesman said reassuringly: "Piranha could not survive below 15C for more than a few days; the temperature of the Thames is currently closer to 10C."

Oh yeah? Years ago, I kept a couple of piranha. Nasty little buggers they were, too. Unbeknown to me, their water heater wasn't working properly. The result was that the temperature dropped. And the fish were fine.

Now I don't want to scare you, but with global warming and an increasing number of idiots dropping unwanted pets in local rivers or ponds, we're going to go the way of Florida. A stretch of canal in St Helens was once famed for the number of tropical species you could catch there (they flourished because of a warm-water outlet). I've heard of cichlids, walking catfish and blue carp being caught here on rod and line. Are piranha that ridiculous?

So did a seagull really drop old red-belly, proudly trumpeted as the 119th species to turn up in the Thames? Well, the theory is fine, except that gulls are not known for being picky about their food. I reckon if one had found the piranha, it would now be just another splat of gull poo on your car roof.

The only thing I would add is that piranha are horrible to eat. Some years ago, we caught them in the Ecuadorian jungle and, as revenge for them trying to bite our fingers off, cooked them. Yuk! They tasted like toilet paper impregnated with tiny needles. We fed them to the ants. Even they weren't that keen.

Perhaps that gull took a closer look at what he'd grabbed, and realised it was a piranha. My theory is that he thought: "Oh no, I'm not eating another one of those."

So maybe there's a piranha or two in a pond near you. If you've cut your finger, I'd advise you not to wash it in the local lake. Just in case.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee