Is It Safe to Go In the Water?

Lake Gitche Gumee

The story of a testicle eating fish being caught in an area lake first appeared on KSDK, the Saint Louis NBC affiliate. The pacu, a toothy tropical fish was taken from Lake Lou Yaeger in Litchfield, IL. This lake adjoins I-55, halfway between Saint Louis and Springfield, IL.

Lake Superintendent Jim Caldwell brought the fish to the Illinois DNR, where it was identified. Another pacu was seen later in the lake. It is thought that aquarium fish were released into the lake. Caldwell said that Pacus primarily eat nuts, aquatic vegetation and snails and pose no real threat to humans. I read about this story on HuffPo, for whom this kind of story is red meat:

Residents of Papua New Guinea may beg to differ. There, according to British fisherman Jeremy Wade, the pacu is known as the “ball cutter”. In 2011, Wade said locals informed him that two fisherman had died from blood loss after something in the water had bitten off their testicles.

Pacus reports come on the heels of last year’s aquatic scare, the Asian carp. This invasive fish has spread throughout all of the major rivers of the confluence and is knocking on the door to the Great Lakes. This aggressive and excitable fish is a hazard to small boaters and water-skiers. Passing water recreationists can cause this carp to leap out of the water and lacerate them with their razor-sharp fins.

Midwest hysteria over the pacu and Asian carp might seem silly to the seacoasts’ perennial shark scares, but all of these overblown threats mask the real dangers of going into the water. More Americans drown than are bitten. Simple water safety precautions can prevent many of these deaths. Another water hazard has arisen though. I’m speaking of E-Coli based water pollution. An old adage goes, “Wherever there are mammals, there are E-Coli.” This danger is much closer to where I will be swimming than any toothed monster. According to the Soo Evening Snooze, E-Coli is the major cause for Chippewa County beach closures. I was shocked, shocked to find that Gitche Gumee has a water pollution problem. I think that I’ll be wearing goggles when I swim there this summer, no chainmail swimsuit though.

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