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
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Leeds

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London