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Amazon Exotic Species

A guide to the exotic fish species
encountered on our Amazon fishing trips

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PirapitingaPiaractus brachypomus—(Cuvier, 1818)

Amazon exotic fish species Pirapitinga also known as Pacu
Pirapitinga- Giant Pacu

A large, oval-shaped Characin, pirapitinga are encountered by anglers in high gradient Amazon tributary rivers, particularly in the Guiana Shield region. A powerful fighter, they are omnivorous in their feeding habits and can be taken on artificial lures, fruit or even cut bait. Their crushing jaws can make short work of the strongest hooks. Commonly called pacu, these omnivorous fish are significantly different in size, shape and behavior than the large numbers of small, herbivorous aquarium species generally identified as pacu in the Myleus and Metynnis genera.

ID Key: Heavy-bodied oval fish with human-like teeth.


Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Uniformly dark dorsally with mottled dark patterning on a lighter background laterally and silvery ventrally Purplish above, with a glossy sheen ranging from silvery to bronzy. Darker gray over silvery gray mottled on sides. Adults: Adults: said to exceed 55 pounds (.75 meters) well-developed adipose fin
human-like dentition
Another, smaller species of Piaractus, P. Mesopotamicus (called Pacu Caranha) is found in the Pantanal and Paraguay/Parana basins.
The larger "tambaqui" (Colossoma macropomum) is a migrant in lowlands trunk rivers and is farmed widely.
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana.

River Basins: Amazon and Orinoco drainages
When available, particularly during high water periods, they eat fruit falling into the water. When water levels are low, they will opportunistically feed on small fish and other food swept into eddies below waterfalls. In high gradient rivers, they often occupy slack waters below waterfalls as well as steep banks in slower, wider sections. English: confusing common name usage, often called pacu along with several other species
Brazil: Pirapitinga
Other: Morocoto (Venezuela)
44 pounds,
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA

Fishing Tactics

Amazon exotic fish species Pirapitinga caught on an Amazon fishing trip

Under extremely low water conditions, the omnivorous pirapitinga can be specifically targeted by anglers with artificial lures or flies. They can be seen surfacing in small schools at the slack-water edges of rapids and will occasionally hunt in fast water tailraces. One of the most productive lures for pirapitinga in these conditions is a 3/4 ounce floating, silver or other natural shade Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow. Anglers can cast directly to them when schools occupying slack water are evident. A well placed cast will often be rewarded with a strike. In tailraces, blind casting is the only option and, of course, may yield other species (such as payara), depending on the river system.

Under most water-level conditions, small native fruits can be amazingly productive, especially in a period where they are ripening throughout the area. A bush bearing a small fruit known as "casari" is often a common river-edge occurrence. If water levels are high enough to enable ripe fruit to fall into the water, pirapitinga will focus on these readily available tidbits. Anglers can collect the fruits and drift them into waters holding pirapitinga. It is a remarkable experience when a fish shaped like a small delivery van and as powerful as a Mack truck gently mouths a ping-pong ball sized fruit, only to shift into full drive when an angler sets the hook.

Anglers often encounter pirapitinga when fishing for other species with cut bait. It makes for an exciting surprise.

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