CLINTON - DeWitt County is a long way from the Amazon River in South America. But that didn't stop a toothy pacu from taking bait that Virgil Hunter of Weldon dangled in the hot-water discharge of Clinton Lake about 5 p.m. Saturday.
The fish, which is a close relative of the piranha, weighed just more than 1.2 pounds.
Steve Pallo, program section head for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said both pacu and piranhas are wrongly stocked by aquarium owners who get tired of caring for them.
Unlike piranha, which are carnivores, pacu use their teeth to eat through vegetation and crush seeds that fall into the water. They grow larger than piranhas.
They are unlikely to survive long and even more unlikely to find a mate and spawn in Illinois, Pallo said. Still, tossing exotic fish is a bad idea. He noted just a handful of Asian carp escaped into the Mississippi River when a fish pond flooded a few years ago. Today, they infest the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, where scientists think they are harming native fish species. The government is spending big money to keep them from reaching Lake Michigan, where they could damage sport fisheries.
Stocking exotic species or even moving native species from one place to another can also spread disease, he said.
Pallo said a better idea would be to return the fish to a pet store where they can be sold again to someone who will care for them.
Crappie - Good at Shelbyville, Shabbona. Fair at Clinton, Sangchris, Dawson, Spring Lake, Banner Marsh. Slow at Evergreen, Bloomington.
Saugeye - Good at Evergreen.
Sauger - Fair at the Illinois River near Henry trolling crankbaits on leadcore.
Walleye - Good at Dawson, Heidecke, Clinton, Shelbyville.
Largemouth bass - Good at Sangchris, Spring Lake, Decatur, Dawson, Clinton, Shabbona, Evergreen. Good at Lake Bloomington, said guide Paul Center at (309) 454-8942.
Smallmouth bass - Good at Powerton, according to guide Jim Crowley at (309) 261-3068). Fair in streams, according to guide Jonn Graham at (309) 399-7055.
Striped bass - Slowing in spillways at Clinton and Decatur.
White bass - No report at Clinton. Good at Decatur, Shelbyville. Fair at the Illinois River early and late in the day.
Catfish - Very good at Clinton, LaSalle, Illinois River, Powerton, Sangchris, Decatur, Dawson. Fair at Shabbona, Evergreen, Spring Lake.
Muskies - Slow at Shabbona, Evergreen. Fair at Shelbyville.
Bluegills - Good at LaSalle, Sangchris, Evergreen, Shabonna, Powerton. Fair at Spring Lake.
Pacu - Spotty at Clinton Lake.