SI Vault
Gardner McKay
March 11, 1963
If you want to know what all this jazz is about piranhas, I'll tell you. You're clearly not with it unless you've at least seen some film on how a school of these fish can reduce a cow to gleaming bones in a few tense minutes.
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March 11, 1963

How To Eat A Piranha Before It Eats You

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We moved on, then glided noiselessly to a stop at a final rock. A little too dramatically, I thought, but I guess you can't overfish when you are trying to out-think a piranha. We baited our hooks and separated. Moi's line and mine were instantly cut, and it was then that I first had a feeling there were fish out there. Boy pulled his line with the new bait intact, swung it well out and brought it slowly in. I watched him carefully. This was our last hook. When the line was still well out he got his bite and, as he hauled the line in, he started a very long sentence which didn't end until he'd boated a 15-inch piranha, bloodred-eyed and with two perfect rows of teeth.

When I was through photographing the fish from every known angle, I whacked into its skull with my machete and went about removing our only hook from its lower jaw. I held the mouth open with a Kienel & Piel sheath knife, an adequate blade. As it held the jaw, the blade was bent back against itself. Moi told me the fish could break legs. I went along with him there. After that, the piranha lay pretty quietly in the bottom of the boat and just barked. I don't mean it went "werf, werf," like a sheep dog, but it was a bark, all righabout as loud as average speech.

I caught the next piranha, a duplicate of the first, and after that the line was cut, so we paddled back to Granbori. I cooked my piranha in the tradition of these forests: a grate of green sticks high above the flames, and the fish, cleaned and cut from the top, laid out on the sticks for at least two hours. It tastes terrible, but it keeps for days. Moi and Boy made fish chowder with wild peppers out of the other piranha, which tasted great. Next day I went back for the pakira head and found only the tusks. It must have been a good fight.

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