ST. MARYS -- A local fisherman spotted an
unusual inhabitant during a recent fishing
trip to Grand Lake St. Marys. Upon further
inspection, the inhabitant turned out to be
a fish not common to the area.
Fisherman and outdoor enthusiast Max Power
spotted a four-foot barracuda in the lake
Tuesday afternoon. According to Power, the
discovery came as a bit of a surprise since
barracudas are not native to Ohio waterways.
"I was reaching down into the water
and saw a rather large shadow approaching
the boat," Power said. "At first
I did not recognize it, but as it drew closer
I noticed it was a barracuda."
Power acted fast and snatched his fishing
net from the boat and put it in the water.
After a few minutes of waiting, the fish
swam into the net and Power pulled it into
"I couldn't believe how big it was,"
he said of the barracuda. "Luckily,
I had my camera with me, so I quickly snapped
a shot and released it back into the water
-- those things got some teeth on them."
Barracudas are usually found along the
sandy coasts of warmer waters, like Florida
and the Caribbean. Spotting one in St. Marys,
while rare, is not totally out of the picture
according to a wild life official.
"With the number of people buying
exotic pets increasing, it is not unfeasible
for this to happen," Director of the
Federal Organization on Observing Lakes
(FOOL) Bill Bigsby said. "More and
more people are buying pets online and dumping
them once they cannot care for them anymore."
Despite being a saltwater fish, Bigsby
noted that it is possible for a barracuda
to thrive in an environment similar to Grand
Lake St. Marys. Given the fish content of
the lake, the fish could sustain itself
for several years.
"It's not out of the realm of possibility,"
Bigsby added. "There have been stories
of alligators living in Lake Erie so this
is not impossible."
While barracudas often earn a fierce reputation,
Bigsby noted that visitors to the lake should
not be leery of entering the waters. Barracudas
do not usually pose a threat to swimmers.
"They (swimmers) really don't have
anything to worry about," he said.
"Barracudas are like most fish and
are more afraid of you than you are of them.
Chances are if you see one, it would swim
away faster than you could."
FOOL officials are currently conducting
a study into how many barracudas could be
living in the lake. After an accurate count
of the fish is determined, a decision would
be made whether to remove the population
of barracudas or allow them to remain in
"Once we come to a conclusion on whether
or not they are causing environmental damage
we will decide," he said. "If
they are not harming the fish population
or the environment we will let them stay."
Bigsby is also pondering whether or not
to file criminal charges against the person
who released the barracuda into the lake.
While Bigsby acknowledged tracking the fish
to a specific individual(s) would be extremely
difficult, he hopes to discourage others
from buying exotic pets.
"It's a practice we want to stop,"
he added. "These animals should be
left in their natural habitats and not sold
as pets to some one who thinks it would
be cool to own one."
As for Power, he will never forget the
day he went fishing and came home with a
story to tell for years to come.
"I'll never forget seeing that barracuda,"
he said. "It's not every day you catch
one of those in Ohio."
Although netting fish on any Ohio waterway
is illegal, people are encouraged to net
the barracuda if the have a chance. Anyone
who catches or sees a barracuda in Grand
Lake-St. Marys should contact FOOL officials
at 419-555-7414 and wait until officials
arrive, do not release the fish.
To preceding story was part of The Evening
Leader's annual April Fool's Day tradition.
By MIKE BURKHOLDER