Slippery, slimy, spotted like a cow: angler reels in rare ‘unicorn’ fish in Missouri

·1 min read

A Missouri man reeled in a strange creature from the Mississippi River recently; a slimy, whiskered, black-and-white rarity.

It’s a piebald blue catfish, according to avid fisherman Chad Hester. The 36-pound fish doesn’t have the bluish-gray body like others of its kind, but has coloring more akin to a dairy cow, its white skin marked with black splotches.

“First Piebald I’ve ever caught and it was a dandy too,” Hester said in a Facebook post Thursday, which has since been made private.

“This means more to me than ever landing a triple digit bluecat,” Hester said, adding that he released the piebald back into the river within a few minutes. “Absolutely gorgeous fish. I will never forget that moment.”

Piebald fish are rare in general, but the genetic variation is rarest among blue catfish, according to the Lower Mississippi Conservation Committee.

Researchers pull thousands of fish from the Mississippi River every year for sampling purposes, and in a 17-year period ending in 2014, the team only found two piebald specimens out of 22,230 blue catfish.

“To me, it’s the unicorn of the river,” Hester told KTVI.

For Hester, photos and video were enough evidence of the catch. He had no interest in harvesting it or turning it into a trophy, he told the TV station, he’s happier knowing it’s swimming free in the Mississippi.

“That way he can spread his genes in the wild and someone else might have the opportunity to catch him,” Hester said.

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