As spring turns to summer, should you be wary of death-by-bluegill fish as you step into the water to cool off?
That’s what a recent Facebook post suggests, showing a photo of a fish about the size of of an outstretched palm and the words: "Did you know?"
"The Bluegill fish is one of the most dangerous fish in North America," the March 28 post claims. "The bluegill is related to the deadly piranna (sic) which is responsible for 20,000 deaths per year. When the bluegill are feeding in a school, they can completely dismantle a human body in less than 15 minutes. Bluegills are responsible for over 500 deaths in the United States every summer."
A citation at the bottom of the text credits "Ohio fish news 1987."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Let’s look at whether bluegills are responsible for more than 500 human deaths in the United States every summer.
The fish doesn’t show up on Britannica’s list of 10 of the most dangerous fish in the world, though the piranha (spelled correctly) ranks fourth.
The bluegill, meanwhile, is one of the most popular sport fish in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The fish’s range spans North America, from Canada to northern Mexico, and they like quiet streams, ponds, lagoons and small- to medium-sized lakes.
Their diet? Insects, insect larvae, small crustaceans and worms. (No humans listed.)
We couldn’t find any credible evidence that bluegill fish prey on people, not to mention kill hundreds of them every year. Rather, news coverage of the fish is positive, and it doesn’t suggest that we should fear the bluegill.
On May 25, 2018, USA Today published a piece titled: "Easy to find and fun to catch, bluegill are America’s fish."
"They’re delicious when lightly battered and fried," the story says.
We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire!