This piebald catfish was released back into the mighty Mississippi.
When most anglers think about the catch of lifetime, they probably imagine the biggest fish possible. However, a recent catch of a 36-pound blue catfish outside of West Alton, Missouri proves the catch of a lifetime can take on many forms. Chad Hester's amazing catch of a piebald blue catfish last week is turning a lot of heads.
"I freaked out," Hester said. "I was like holy cow."
For most anglers that reaction would be entirely understandable. Hester's catch appears to be mostly snow-white with just a few mottled patches of the dark blue-grey coloration that blue catfish are usually known for. Hester weighed the big cat at 36 pounds. Nowhere near as large as a blue catfish can get, but considering the fish's unnatural coloration, it is extremely impressive. Piebald fish often do not survive long in the wild because they stick out like a sore thumb.
Hester's big fish was caught while using Asian carp as bait. Catching the fish of a lifetime and doing his part to combat a serious invasive species problem? This story just gets better and better. Hester also unselfishly decided to release the amazing catch back into the river for someone else to enjoy.
"That way he can spread his genes in the wild and somebody else might have the opportunity to catch him," Hester told the news station.
While piebald blue catfish are caught by anglers sometimes, they are extremely rare. The Lower Mississippi Conservation Committee documents some of the catches of them on their webpage. Their fish survey teams have only captured two of them in 17 years of sampling and research on the river. One of them was kept in captivity for a while back in 2002, during which time it developed more darker black highlights than it had when caught. Unfortunately, biologists know very little about piebald blue catfish simply because they are so rare.
In any case, congratulations to Hester on the catch of a lifetime. We suggest a full-size fiberglass fish replica is in order. It would make an amazing conversation piece!
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