Step 1: Erase all preconceived notions of piranha. Yes, their teeth are sharp. Yes, they enjoy their meaty snacks. But the species of piranha discussed here are not the type to be obtained by dipping cow entrails into the water and then flinging a dozen fish to shore. These piranha are much more elusive. Shy, even. And while they will not kill you if you fall overboard, it’s best not to trail your fingers in the water, just to be on the safe side.
Step 2: Bait your hook. A nice little chunk of beef will do. If it’s too fatty, the fish won’t bite. They are surprisingly discerning. If you allow your daughter to bait the hook, check her work. The hook should be hidden, but the meat secure.
Step 3: Drop your line into the water. We’re not talking rods and reels. Likely, your guide will provide you with a stick with fishing line and a hook attached. Or maybe just the fishing line and hook. As the meat sinks, call the fish by letting the end of the stick touch the surface of the water. Thrash the tip of the stick from left to right to create a commotion. Think of this as the piranha dinner bell.
Step 4: Be patient, but not too patient. When you feel a tug or see a brief tension in the line, jerk the pole (stick) to one side (better sideways than directly up) to snag the fish. As the hook comes out of the water, take care not to let the hook fly into the face of your guide, six-year-old, eight-year-old, or any other companions in your boat.
Step 5: Accept failure. You will fail. Many times. Your guide will catch fish after fish, throwing most back because they are too small to eat. You will find that instead of fishing, you are basically feeding the fish, as the devils manage to retrieve the bait from your hook time and time again.
Step 6: Accept success. Eventually, you or your six-year-old will catch a piranha. Be brave and attempt to remove the hook yourself, as opposed to shrieking until your guide comes to your rescue. Do not allow your six-year-old or eight-year-old to remove the hook. Grasp the fish tightly with one hand around the widest point of the fish’s body. With the other hand, jiggle the hook free and, if possible, use the bait to catch another fish.
Step 7: Eat piranha. Remove the scales, score the flesh on each side in a pattern similar to where the fish’s ribs will be. Gut the fish. Throw the guts to the vultures; it’ll make their day. Fry, grill, or smoke the fish. Enjoy the painstaking process of removing half a teaspoon of flesh from your catch. Eat it and marvel that it tastes very good, which you somehow didn’t expect.
Step 8: Repeat. When your six-year-old starts whining, “Mom, can we please go piranha fishing again? Please?”, remind yourself that she hasn’t watched television in a week. Then, say yes.