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Amazon River piranha fishing is a triple bucket list adventure

The title of this post should actually be Yavari River piranha fishing, but Amazon River piranha fishing sounds a little more bucket list worthy material (not to mention more SEO friendly). The Yavari River is a tributary of the Amazon and acts as the border between Peru and Brazil. I started this tour in Leticia, Colombia. We cruised up the Amazon for an hour until we reached the Yavari River.

Amazon River piranha fishing

Amazon River piranha fishing

Related: How to book Amazon jungle tour in Leticia, Colombia

The Amazon River where Brazil, Peru, and Colombia meet is pretty commercial. It is busy with boat traffic and the shores are somewhat deforested and built up. This is why it is necessary to head up one of the wilder tributaries for a more jungle like experience.

Amazon River Leticia

When I saw the Amazon River from our descending plane into Leticia, it was a tick off my bucket list – Little did I know that I would soon be Amazon River piranha fishing

Amazon River piranha fishing a triple bucket list experience

Fishing for piranha on the Amazon River was for me a triple bucket list experience. First of all, even laying eyes on the Amazon River was a bucket list item in of itself. I will never forget descending into the small airport in Leticia when all of a sudden the enormous river came into view. I had an aisles seat, so I was craning my neck like a bucket list hungry giraffe as the great river came into view. The Argentinian couple who I was hovering over noticed that I had an interest in seeing the river from the window, how could they not, and were nice enough to snap a few pictures with my phone.

Amazon River Leticia

On our boat ride up the Amazon River, Antonio is giving us the scoop

The second bucket list item fulfilled was getting on a boat and cruising up the Amazon. As I mentioned, the river was somewhat built up in this section, but it was still a beautiful and an unforgettable experience. It was a thrill to see all the fishing boats and passenger boats heading downstream as we headed upstream. We even saw a few dolphins.

Yavari River South America

Amazon River piranha fishing on the Yavari River

The third bucket list item was fishing for piranha. Piranha for a boy growing up in the United States are almost a mythical fish. Often revered and feared at the same time due to their legendary teeth and appetite. I used to love watching nature shows featuring the Amazon River and especially the piranha. I remember a few of my friends had them in their fish aquarium at home, which was a huge cause for jealousy. Is it wrong to covet thy friends fish.

Piranha fishing on the Yavari River

When I checked in at Amazon Jungle Trips and found that piranha fishing was one of the included activities, I was delighted. I enjoy fishing for anything, but to have the opportunity to catch a famed piranha was even better. I had a permanent grin on my face from the moment I booked the tour, and the grin kept increasing as I got closer to having a wooden pole in my hand.

GoPro Amazon River

Amazon River piranha fishing captured on GoPro

We set out on our boat toward the fishing hole. The party consisted of our Peruvian guide, myself, Colin from England, a young lady from Canada, and a couple from Germany. We would be fishing with long wooden poles with a fishing line and a hook attached. It was nothing fancy. Our guide baited our hook with some sort of dead fish.

We then put our line in the water and waited. We did not have long to wait. All of us got strikes almost immediately. We also all instantly lost our bait. It did not take long for the piranha or other fish to steal our bait. This happened again and again and again. We were constantly sticking our hook in our guides’ face for a re-bait. Most of my fishing experience takes extreme patience as it is possible to go hours sometimes days without catching fish or even getting a bite depending on the quality of the fishing hole, the day, and your luck or skill. This was not the case here.

Piranha on

The action was immediate, but it was extremely difficult to set the hook. I tried letting the fish eat the bait before setting, but this did not work. Then I tried setting the hook immediately, but this did not work. I tried everything in between, but the fish kept stealing our bait. At one point our guide stuck the wood pole in the water and swished it around. Normally, I would never consider such a tactic as this would only scare the fish away, but I guess since piranha are such bad ass fish that this technique only antagonizes them to strike.  We all adopted this strategy as you can see in the video.

Amazon River piranha fishing

Amazon River piranha fishing

Finally, someone in our group caught a fish, but it was not a piranha. It was a skinny odd looking fish that looked like a cross between a catfish and a guppy. Eventually, my bait went down, and I set the hook. For a thrilling minute I fought what I believe was a piranha. The fish turned sideways in the water and it was more round than the strange skinny fish others had caught. Piranha are kind of shaped like a panfish and that was the shape of this fish on my hook in the water. Unfortunately, he was able to take my bait and get off the hook. Still, it was super exciting to have what I believe was a piranha on the line.

Yavari River swimming

If you can’t beat them, join them

No piranha today

This was pretty much the pattern for everyone fishing today. A few lucky ones caught the strange skinny fish, but no one pulled in a piranha. I may have been the closest with an almost confirmed view of a piranha on my line, but since it got away, I can only guess. Despite the lack of piranha luck, it was an incredible experience. They always say a bad day fishing beats a good day of work and that saying is true a hundred times over if the day fishing is spent on a tributary of the Amazon River between Peru and Brazil. We ended the attempt with a refreshing swim on a sand bar. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Adventure on!

The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then sign up for the email newsletter. Notifications are sent out once or twice a month with what is new with Traveling Ted’s adventures. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).

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16 Responses to Amazon River piranha fishing is a triple bucket list adventure

  1. Ray February 7, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

    Great story, Ted! I have only had two opportunities to try piranha fishing – once in the Peruvian Amazon (that was cancelled due an overbooking at the resort) and once in the Pantanal in Brazil. Like your group, no one in mine caught anything. Well, one guy caught a Lambari, but otherwise, the Pantanal was too flooded for us to catch any piranha that day. But they say the “third time’s a charm,” right? All the more reason for me to return to South America in the future to finally catch this mythical beast!
    Ray recently posted..Chicago’s Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions – Chicago Sports Museum

    • Traveling Ted February 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      Hello Ray,

      How was the Pantanal? See any jaguars? How about anything else interesting?

  2. Erin Marie Musich February 7, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

    I think this is definitely an adventure I’d be up for. Maybe not swimming in the water afterwards though, lol.
    Erin Marie Musich recently posted..Coolpad Conjr: A Great Phone for Travelers

    • Traveling Ted February 10, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

      Don’t worry Erin,

      The caiman keep the piranhas at bay 🙂

  3. Agness of Fit Travelling February 21, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    I admire your adventures and Iove reading your posts, Ted! Keep us posted!

    • Traveling Ted February 27, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      Thank you Agness. I hope you are well 🙂

  4. Nate February 27, 2017 at 1:24 am #

    That’s a pretty wild fishing trip. Big props for your willingness to get in the water!

    • Traveling Ted February 27, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      Thanks Nate,

      It was too hot not to enjoy a swim.

  5. Eric || The Bucket List Project February 27, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    I don’t know if I could go swimming after fishing for piranha! I would be the perfect bait! haha, but you are right, for a boy from New Orleans, catching a piranha would be epic! What do they do with them after you catch them? I heard they were tough to eat!
    Eric || The Bucket List Project recently posted..The Travel Whispers Blogger Challenge

    • Traveling Ted March 2, 2017 at 3:05 pm #

      Hello Eric,

      Unfortunately, I cannot answer this firsthand as we did not catch anything worth keeping. I assume though that they would cook them up and serve it to us if we did. We did enjoy a lot of fresh fish when we stayed there, but they were caught by the professionals – not us 🙂

  6. iben ayad April 2, 2017 at 3:23 am #

    Hi Ted, I came across your website while searching for some fishing stories, I found out your blog nice to read. Great stuff! As your group did not catch any piranha fish, we can write a post about “how to catch a piranha fish?” 😉 – All the best,

    • Traveling Ted April 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

      Thank you for the offer Iben, but I will write that post myself when I come back and catch a fish 🙂

  7. Stuart Forster April 4, 2017 at 11:50 pm #

    You tell a great story. Shame your bait did not draw the fish the way the headline pulled me.

  8. Brian Lange August 12, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    Hi Ted,
    Really It was a grate story.
    thank you for sharing

    • Traveling Ted August 15, 2017 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks Brian,

      It was an incredible experience.

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