Angler surprised by piranha far from usual habitat NORTH--Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

Donald Warren is one lucky fisherman.

Lucky because it's rare for a fisherman to discover, swinging at the end of his line, a fish that would as easily bite the fisherman as it would the bait.


We're talking piranha, the carnivorous fish of the Amazon River.

Last Wednesday was a fine day for fishing at Robert's Field. The pond at North Woods Trail and Boxwood Drive had been recently stocked with largemouth bass by the Department of Natural Resources.


The pond had recently come under the management of Aquatic Environmental Consultants, hired by the Fields Homeowners Association to monitor the water and introduce plant life.

Folks have been hand-feeding dozens of fat and greedy sunfish for years. Donald Warren, who lives on Roostertail Drive, a short walk from the pond, cast a line of lively worms into the water.

He got a strike.

"When it first hit, I thought it was a bass," he said. "But when I reeled it in, the fight wasn't all that much." Coaxing the fish, he traveled several yards along shore to land it.

Catch in hand, he beheld the 8-inch-long fish eye to eye. It had a bright orange stomach. Tiny, smooth scales. A square jaw. Two rows of teeth.

"I said to myself, 'Man, this is no bluegill. This is something weird,' " said Mr. Warren.

Mr. Warren and I found the spitting image of his fish in "The Fresh & Saltwater Fishes of the World" by Edward C. Migdalski and George S. Fichter. The red-bellied piranha, Serrasalmus nattereri. It's a popular pet for the home aquarium.

Until it grows up.


"Most likely it was someone's that's outgrown their fish tank," said George Sackett, a member of the staff of Fresh Water Fisheries in the Department of Natural Resources. "Just one, that size, does not create a problem. If you find more than two, it raises an eyebrow."

The South American fish probably wouldn't survive a Hampstead winter, he said. It wouldn't be able to reproduce with local species, either.

Piranha discovered recently in Crofton, he said, were of a species from a comparable latitude and would survive. Those were herbivorous piranha. You can tell the plant-eating fish by its rounded teeth, "rather than the tearing teeth of the carnivore," he said.

Barbara McCloud, who handles public communications in central Maryland for the DNR, said that piranha have been hooked in the Patuxent River. "It is people dropping them, thinking that it is humane," she said. "The idea that one is going to gobble up a child is way out of line."

Mr. Warren's exotic catch is now on ice.



Folks in Lineboro know a good crab cake when they taste one. That's why 700 people went to last year's crab cake and ham supper to benefit the Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department.

This year, those famous crab cakes and ham will be served all-you-can-eat style June 19 from 2 p.m. "until we run out of food," said emergency medical service Lt. Michael Buckley.

"We cook it ourselves," he said. "We buy crab meat, we do all mixing. It's an old Lineboro family recipe."

The big dinner means the men and women of the fire department start into the crab cakes on Thursday and the ham on Friday.


The Second Annual Barnyard Bingo and Community Yard Sale will be held by the Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department behind the Main Street firehouse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 26.


"Last year people sat up in the grass and made it a big picnic," said Lieutenant Buckley.

Pit beef and pit ham will be served throughout the day.

Antique farm equipment will be displayed and demonstrated by members of the Maryland Steam Historical Society.

Of prime interest and big stakes is the cow-chip bingo game. A mooing cow determines the winner.

Those who buy a $5 chance before June 23 have their stub stapled to a paper quilt that corresponds to a meadow marked in squares.

At noon, "We put the cow in there. Whenever he does his thing, that's $1,000," said Mr. Buckley.


"Last year it took about five minutes," he said. "You never know."

Yard sale spaces are still available at $10 each. Information: 374-2197.