Huge Arapaima “River Monster” Predatory Fish Discovered in Florida
Russ Chastain 02.22.21
What goes with Florida’s foreign invasive species like iguanas, Nile crocodiles, Burmese pythons, and herpes-carrying wild monkeys? The South American arapaima gigas, which may look familiar to viewers of TV’s “River Monsters” program. Yep, a dead arapaima “bigger than [her] seven-year-old” was recently found and photographed by a Florida woman near Fort Meyers according to a recent news report, and that means live ones can’t be far away.
“Over the weekend, a woman walking through Cape Coral’s Jaycee Park came across an enormous dead fish that puzzled her.
She first noticed the fish floating in the water along the Caloosahatchee River, but it wasn’t until she snapped a photo of it with her phone and posted it to Facebook that someone was able to identify it.
‘It was bigger than my 7-year-old. I thought that is nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was kind of white with a pinkish tail.’ said Leah Getts, from Cape Coral. ‘It had a huge kind of open bass looking kind of mouth. It didn’t look like anything I had heard of or seen before.’“
It didn’t take long for the fish to be identified as an arapaima, and after looking at online photos of the monster fish, the woman agreed. The carcass was roughly 5.5 feet long, only about half the size to which arapaima can grow in the Amazon (10 feet in length and 200 pounds in weight).
The good news is that Florida’s fish and game management agency believes its waters are too cool for the arapaima, according to a risk study they undertook about ten years ago. Ecologist John Cassani with Calusa Waterkeeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Caloosahatchee River and nearby waters, is quoted in the news story:
“‘The primary concern with arapaima is that they would become established and reproduce naturally.’ Cassani said. ‘Obviously a big aggressive predatory fish is popular amongst anglers. But the risk to the ecosystem far outweighs the recreational value of the species.’“
Here’s hoping the risk study was accurate and we won’t be seeing arapaimas teeming in Florida’s waters. We Floridians have enough snakes, gators, and various other things to worry about when we take a dip, and I certainly don’t want to see our native fish wiped out by a huge foreign fish. Fingers crossed!