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Gamefish of the Amazon Basin

Amazon Gamefish Encyclopedia: A compendium of scientific and angling information for the fisherman - to help you better understand your quarry.

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Pacu and Piranha

Throughout the Amazon, the name pacu has been given to a range of flattened, rounded fishes primarily from the genera Mylossoma, Myleus and Metynnis. Like their larger cousins, the tambaqui and pirapitinga, pacu favor the vegetarian lifestyle. That doesn't mean, however that they can't be convinced to join in on a little sportfishing activity from time to time. Several species can readily be caught on light tackle and will put up an impressive tussle.

Ultralight spinning rods that can deliver a kernel of corn or wadded piece of bread or a grasshopper can make for a diverting afternoon (not to mention a delicious dinner). Fly casters should use 2/0 Clousser Minnows and especially fruit-colored Glo Bugs dead-drifted in trout/salmon fashion. The Brazilian specimen at the top, left, took a "bread fly" (spun deer hair, cut and trimmed to look like a piece of floating bread) in moving water, just like a trout sipping a dry fly.

There are many species of piranha (Serrasalmus sp.) swimming the rivers throughout the Amazon basin. The black piranha (Rhombeus) can grow larger than 8-pounds and can be excellent light tackle adversaries (especially on smaller spinning/casting rods or a 5-6-weight fly rod). Examinations of piranha stomach contents have shown that their typical food consists about one half of fish while the other half includes fruit, seeds and bottom detritus.

Needless to say, piranha are not picky eaters and will take literally anything remotely resembling a baitfish. A small Rat-L-Trap or Yo-Zuri tipped with meat is deadly. These feisty little creatures can, at times, be quite a nuisance as they have a nasty habit of destroying your lures or that custom-tied eight-dollar streamer the second it hits the water.

What a difference teeth make!

Pacu, with their mouths full of molars are the "lotus-eaters" of the Amazon fishes.

Amazon gamefish species pacu eat flowers and fruits

Their diet consists mostly of flowers, nuts and fruits, with an unlucky bug occasionally joining the menu.

Amazon gamefish species pacu look similar to Piranha

Although they look awfully similar to their razor-toothed brethren, they have a reputation for placidity.

Amazon gamefish species pacu have a reputation for placidity

Great fun on
light tackle

Both Piranha and Pacu are members of the family Serrasalmidae.. They are, of course, distinguished by their very different teeth. The Piranha's dentition has made them the Hollywood horror stars of the fish world. In spite of their vicious reputation, most species feed on carrion or fish, some specializing in hit and run scale eating.

Gamefish species piranha caught on an Amzon peacock bass fishing trip

The greatest danger they present to the angler is the safe removal of hooks from their horrid litle snapping jaws. They do, however, taste very good pan-fried.

Amazon gamefish species piranha taste very good pan-fried

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