Piranha Fishing in the Pantanal

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Of all the activities we completed in the Pantanal, river floating, games drives, hiking, and horseback riding, Piranha fishing might have been the most fun.  I really wanted to fish for Piranha simply to be able to say I’ve done it.  Ruth and Alice, the other girl on our tour were not sold on participating, especially when we saw locals standing chest deep in water fishing for these sharp toothed critters.

We, fortunately, got to ride on a boat.  Oswaldo and Alex took us to a flooded part of the river and explained that piranha are attracted to noise.  As such, we were supposed to smack the tip of our cane pole up and down into the surface of the water to create splashing and noise.  Quite the opposite of regular fishing!

Oswaldo sliced raw beef on a cutting board while Alex baited our hooks. All we had to do was toss the short line into the water.  These eight inch fish generally eat other fish, but we quickly learned they were happy to consume our beef.  I believe in less than five minutes, we caught our first piranha that also bit the hook in half!  With every fish we caught, we lost the bait at least twice as much.  Occasionally we caught moss, but within 45 minutes, the three of us, and occasionally Oswaldo when he wasn’t busy helping us had hooked over 30 piranha.

We felt like we had caught enough fish for piranha soup which the chef of the lodge prepared for us and the rest of the guests staying at Pousada Piuval for dinner, so we took a boat tour along the river for an hour.  This was equally as nice as we created our own cooling breeze while looking at birds, flowers and the expansive surrounding landscape. I don’t know how they navigate given the level of the swamp is different with the rainy and dry season, but we didn’t have to worry about it as they knew where they were going.

We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to catch so many fish, as I’m told with the water high, the piranha are spread out and not in schools so they are harder to find and to hook.  Knowing this made me slightly less afraid of falling into the river too, as they say piranha only attack someone that is bleeding or when they are in large schools and food is scarce.

I highly recommend fishing for piranha in South America.  It was better than fishing for crappie with minnows in a stocked lake in Texas which are equally easy to catch.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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