Piranha fishing in the Pantanal in Brazil

During my travels in South America, we also visited the Pantanal. This is the world’s largest wetland area, south of the Amazon rainforest. I recommend you read my top 7 things to do to Brazil post as well!… During our Pantanal visit we did various activities to explore our surroundings and spot as much of the wildlife as possible… One of these activities was Piranha fishing and even though I am not that keen on fishing at all, it was perhaps one of the most fun activities on my worldwide trips! Standard fishing usually requires a lot of waiting, and I get bored easily, but trust me you will definitely not get bored while piranha fishing!


What are Piranhas?

A piranha or piraña, is a freshwater fish that inhabits South American rivers, floodplains, lakes and reservoirs. They are extremely predatory and mainly feeding on fish, but they do also eat plant material, making them actually omnivorous.

All piranhas have a single row of sharp teeth in both jaws. The teeth are tightly packed and interlocking (via small cusps) and are used for rapid puncture and shearing. Piranhas have one of the strongest bites found in bony fishes. The strong jaws combined with finely serrated teeth are perfect for tearing flesh.

Pirantha teeth Pantanal Brazil


Are Piranhas dangerous?

Although often described as extremely dangerous in the media, piranhas typically do not represent a serious risk to humans. Nevertheless, attacks do occur regularly, especially when the fish are in a stressed situation, for example in times of low water levels or when food is relatively scarce.

Swimming near fishermen may increase the risk of attacks due to the commotion caused by struggling fish and the presence of bait in the water. Also splashing attracts piranhas and for this reason children are more often attacked than adults. Being in the water when already injured or otherwise incapacitated also increases the risk.

Then again, most piranha attacks on humans only result in minor injuries, typically to the feet or hands, but they are occasionally more serious and very rarely can be fatal.

Piranhas are often considered a nuisance by fishers since they steal bait, eat catches, damage fishing gear and may bite when accidentally caught. On the other hand, they are also considered as food. Which is exactly the reason for this trip; catch as many Piranhas as we can for dinner!…


Piranha fishing

Well, with some of the background above in mind we went off with our piranha fishing gear. The basics of piranha fishing is very simple! Bring a box with pieces of cow’s hart. Throw blood and smaller pieces of cow’s hart in the water getting the attention of the school of piranhas. Trust me this will work and you will see the water being stirred up immediately!

Next, take your simple fishing rod, and add a piece of cow’s heart to your hook. (Usually your guide will help you if required). Throw your bait in, where the stirring action is… feel the movement… and pull up again! High chances you caught a piranha already… It really is that simple!… I told you, a great activity for the impatient fisherman.

piranha fishing bait pantanal brazil

Piranha fishing Pantanal Brazil


Top Tip: Unless you are really skilled with removing fish from a hook, do ask your guide to help you! Most injuries during piranha fishing happen here!… Obviously the fish is in distress and your hands are dangerously near to its ferocious teeth… According to our guide, a few days before, a German tourist lost (part of) his finger.. not the nicest thing to happen, especially when in the middle of nowhere!

Don’t let the above discourage you! It is really a fun activity, catching Piranhas in the green jungle! It cannot get more tropical than that!.. As long as you ask your guide for help you will be fine!

piranha fishing pantanal brazil

piranha catch Pantanal Brazil


Piranhas for Dinner

It is not every day that you eat piranhas for dinner, and certainly not your own catch!… After returning to our camp, our guide prepared the fish. Nothing is wasted in the jungle, and this open air jungle kitchen is no exception, so the remains were directly fed to some impressive Southern Caracaras!

Piranha cooking Pantanal Brazil

Piranha cooking Pantanal Brazil

Piranha cooking Pantanal Brazil


Piranhas actually taste very nice! And I am sure it is not only because of our ‘hard work’… If you see it on any menu on your travels give it a try!..

Piranha dinner Pantanal Brazil


Advise on swimming in the Pantanal waters

Seeing this ferocious biting power of the Piranhas, and given we had swum in (a different section) of the Pantanal earlier, we obviously asked the local guide how it would work in case of small wounds, and especially in case a lady would have her time of the month. According to the local guide, these ladies would always tell him… I very much doubt that, as it would not cross anyone’s mind and likely many ladies would not want to share this with their local Pantanal guide.

Top Tip: If any (open) wounds or, for ladies, in case it is your time of the month, think again or at least consult your guide before you plunge in the waters of the Pantanal!

Then again, most piranha attacks on humans only result in minor injuries, typically to the feet or hands, but they are occasionally more serious and are very rarely fatal.

Sunset Pantanal Brazil


And that brings an end to this Ghost around the Globe mini adventure!… As mentioned do check out my Top 7 Things to do in Brazil for a full download on this great country!… Do also read about another highlight of Brazil: Foz de Iguazu waterfalls

In contrast to piranha fishing, do also read my Lapland post… Lapland is amazing, but its ice fishing certainly a bit more time consuming!… Interested in big fish? What about swimming with whale sharks in Cebu, The Philippines?