STATEN ISLAND — When Kaitlyn Crabbe, 11, went on her usual fishing trip with her grandfather near his Westerleigh home last week, they expected to catch the usual catfish, sunfish and goldfish that swim in the pond.
On their previous outing, Kaitlyn caught 3 or 4 catfish at Brooks Pond in Clove Lakes Park. But last week she reeled in something savage.
The girl told her grandfather, Robert Crabbe, 63, that she was pulling in a big sunfish. However, when she finally got the fish out of the water, her grandfather quickly realized what she caught — a 10-inch red-belly piranha..
"It was a fat, sassy fish," said Crabbe, a retired systems engineer. "I recognized it immediately. The teeth were like saw blades."
Crabbe got his granddaughter away from the two-pound fish and took the hook out with a pair of pliers he had with him.
Usually, the Crabbes follow the park's catch-and-release rule for the fish, but with the piranha Crabbe knew he shouldn't.
"I let it expire," he said. "I knew it was a dangerous species."
Crabbe then took the the fish to the Staten Island Zoo, where a worker confirmed its species.
The DEC told Crabbe they would study the pond and its connected waterways to see whether other piranhas are swimming around.
Crabbe believes the fish, which can be commonly purchased in pet stores, was discarded by a former owner when it got too large and required too many goldfish to feed.
He also thinks the fish may be responsible for the drop in other types of fish he used to see in the park.
"We would see a lot of goldfish," he said. "We don't see them anymore."
But Crabbe said he's more concerned about the neighborhood children who regularly fish at the pond.
"There are young people up there constantly fishing without supervision," he said. "Someone could mistake the species for a sunfish. It's dangerous to the young people."
And while Crabbe said some cultures regularly eat red-belly piranha, he decided not to, opting to bury it in his backyard instead.