While the Amazon River may be home to larger aquatic animals, piranhas are perhaps some of the best-known residents — primarily for the lore associate with their sharp teeth and voracious appetites.

Travelers who venture into a tributary with slower-moving waters on International Expeditions’ Amazon River cruise will likely find red-bellied, white or black piranhas. Of these three species, the red-bellied variety had the strongest jaws and sharpest teeth of all of these carnivorous fish.

Although they only grow to be up to 18 inches, averaging around 10 inches, piranhas attack in groups, making it easy for them to swarm a piece of prey and strip away the meat in just a few minutes.

Piranhas may be predators to other animals in the Amazon area, including egrets and ducks, but humans still prey on them. The slower parts of the Amazon offer great fishing, a surprisingly fun excursion.

Our Amazon naturalists suggest using liver or bits of meat to bait the hook, then hitting the surface of the water with the meat continually, mimicking an animal thrashing on the surface. Fishers should act quickly when they feel a tug, because piranhas can eat the bait and swim away before the human reacts

One IE guest, Wayne Zanardelli, shared this account of his time piranha fishing in the Amazon.

“We motored up river until we found a narrow waterway about 20 feet across that had cut through very high saw grass. We pulled into a small, tree-covered cove and broke out the bamboo fishing poles. Each pole was about seven feet long with an eight foot line tied to the end and then a small hook. The bait was raw meat and chicken. We were fishing for red piranha, the meat eaters. Not all species of piranha are carnivores.

“I got lucky and caught the first one, a six incher. George grabbed the fish and removed the hook. The mouth on these things is scary big with razor sharp teeth. This guy was thrown in the basket and flipped wildly for about one minute. George caught the next one and then Ginny, who caught the largest of the day, nabbed a nine incher (piranha don’t get much larger). Dan and I caught a total of eight and the group caught 27. Our driver strung them on a stick. We are going to eat these babies for lunch.”

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