Close this search box.

Fishing for Piranhas in the Amazon Jungle

If the first thing that came to your mind was piranha-infested waters, razor-sharp teeth, a boat, and someone dressed as Indiana Jones, then you are not far from reality. Although the movies have given these animals a bad reputation, the truth is there’s more to them than meets the eye.

If you like adventure, learning about piranha fishing will be exciting. But before we go fishing, let’s get to know these interesting fish, what they eat, where we can find them, and why we should add them as an activity for our next vacation.

What Exactly Is A Piranha?

Piranhas are fish. So they are covered with scales, are cold-blooded, breathe with gills and hatch from eggs. It’s a small fish with round bodies and large heads and lives in freshwater. A red-bellied piranha can grow between 20-38 cm, or 15 inches, long (about the size of a toothbrush).

They are well known for their very sharp, triangular teeth. A piranha bite can be up to 32 kilos (70 pounds) strong! That is three times their weight. That is why they have to replace their teeth frequently and can do so in about 100 days!

A piranha caught in the Amazon Rainforest.

The name originates from the indigenous Tupi people. It is formed from pirá, meaning fish, and sainha meaning tooth; Indians use the same word to describe a pair of scissors. Or pira nya , probably literally “biting-fish.”

In the mid 18th century, the Portuguese merged the word into a piranha.

Do Piranhas Have Predators?

It may surprise you, but these little fish never swim alone. The Piranha has a variety of predators such as:

  • heroes
  • Caymans
  • snakes
  • And turtles, who are their main predator.

That is why you will find them in groups to protect themselves from predators. When they swim together it is called a school or shoal which usually contains about 20 fish.

Where Do Piranhas Live?

Piranhas live in freshwater streams and rivers, especially in the Amazon basin in South America. There are 20 species of piranhas in the Amazon. The biggest is the black piranha with 12 inches long. Although this is their main natural habitat, they are also common in various rivers in Brazil, the Guianas, and the Orinoco river.

Piranhas prefer fast-moving water with a warm temperature, such as 23-26°C (73-78°F). In addition, they prefer clear, white water rather than dark.

What Do Piranhas Eat?

Piranhas are omnivores. They typically eat a combination of insects, smaller fish, crustaceans, worms, snails, aquatic plants, carrion, seeds, and other plant material. You can even use other fish as they are not picky eaters.

Despite what the movies show, some piranha species eat more seeds than meat, but most piranhas are vegetarians because they insist on plants alone. Of course, if the opportunity presents itself they won’t pass up on the opportunity to catch larger prey. 

For example, if there has been no food for a while, it’s common for them to feed on whatever animals they can find to keep their bellies full, such as birds, or even human flesh.

How Dangerous Are They?

Maybe 32 kg (70 pounds) of bite force is not the most comforting introduction, but that makes piranhas the most dangerous freshwater carnivore and gives us an idea that they have the means to defend themselves. 

According to the assistant curator of fish at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Ray Owczarzak, it would take just 5 minutes for 300 to 500 piranhas to devour all the flesh of a human weighing 80 kg (176 pounds).

Although, piranha won’t usually attack humans or other life forms unless they feel threatened or detect the scent of blood.

Can You Fish For Piranhas?

Yes. Piranha fishing is relatively easy, always fun, and ideal for eating them grilled for dinner or even lunch.

Catching, cooking, and eating piranha are normal activities for indigenous people of the Amazon area in Brazil (South America). Would you try it? Some say piranha tastes salty!

Piranha is quite delicious when roasted over an open fire, but it can also be eaten fried, filleted in pieces, or even raw. Its flesh has a slight odor and a firm texture. 

Where Can You Fish For Piranhas In Brazil?

The best place to go piranha fishing is in the longest and most abundant river in the world with a variety of species such as the red-eye piranha. The majestic Amazon River with a length of 7,062 km (4,388 miles) located in South America.

A Guide To Piranha Fishing In The Amazon

How Do You Catch Piranhas?

With good organization and patience, fishing piranhas will be a breeze. But first, let’s make sure you have what you need.

  • A guide: First and most important, piranha fishing is performed as a river cruise in Brazil, by boat or canoe, and with an expert guide.
  • Fresh bait: The fresher the bait, the easier the catch. Some good options are crabs, copro, viscera, or even live fish.
  • A fishing line, rod, and a hook: Sturdy fishing rods are extremely important. It may come at an extra cost however you won’t regret it when you have experienced the piranha taste! They must be highly resistant so that the piranha’s bite cannot break them. The line should support between 10-20 kg (22-44 pounds), and the most suitable hooks are the 6/0 to 8/0. The leader should be made of steel.

And at the end of the trip, who knows? Some guides will even boil the flesh off the head so that you can take the skull and teeth home as fearsome a souvenir!

Piranha Fishing Techniques

  • The movement of the bait should be up and down.
  • As soon as you feel the bite of the piranha, the movement should be fast, sharp, and upwards.
  • Be careful to hold tightly to your rod because the piranha will not stay calm in your hands. It will try to run away, so you must grab it firmly! 
  • Do not try to remove the hook with your hands. You will need a pair of pliers to do it safely.

This and other activities are included in our Amazon Survival Tour. So book now on our website to enjoy this experience!


Yes, the piranha is a dangerous animal, but also small. They are found in groups of a maximum of 20 where they eat meat or plants, swim together, and protect themselves from predators that threaten them.

With the right measures, it is possible to catch and eat them. You can find them in the Amazon river and hire a guide so that you don’t get lost and are safe during your trip.

Are you looking for an unforgettable vacation? Then book our Amazon Survival Tour now and start an amazing trip. You will also have the opportunity to fish piranhas with the help of our guides and learn many survival tips in the heart of the Amazon jungle.

If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, choose this tour!