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Ohio Barracuda Sighting

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 the boat.

"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 the lake.

"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.







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