It looks like a catfish, but does it taste like beef? This strangely-colored fish was recently caught in Oklahoma’s Lake Eufala and bewildered the anglers who caught it.
“Has anyone ever seen anything like this?” wrote Austin Claunch, who took photos of the fish and posted them on Facebook in the hope that someone could identify the fish’s condition.
Many other fishermen chimed in with their thoughts about the vividly colored fish.
“There’s a perfect explanation for this, ya see. It’s that Holstein calf that swam too much,” joked one commenter, referencing the Holstein Friesian breed of cattle with its iconic black-and-white coloration.
Others speculated that it was a released koi fish, some kind of crossbreed, or even a mutant. Some anglers did guess the right answer: it was a piebald cat.
Piebald catfish are rare but not unseen, and a number of anglers posted pictures of their own piebald fish in response to Claunch’s inquiry. Local reporters with KFOR sent in a picture of the catfish to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and received confirmation that the fish was indeed leucistic.
Partial leucism, better known as the piebald effect, is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment. This results in irregular patches of white skin in contrast to the animal’s normal color. The condition can be found in many different species, including common game animals such as deer and elk, but also domestic animals such as cows, goats, goldfish, and birds. In some states, certain piebald and albino animals are protected from hunting due to their rarity. Until recently, Oklahoma required hunters to seek permission from the state wildlife director before harvesting a white or piebald deer. That law has since been repealed, but shooting piebald animals remains controversial in many states.
No such protections exist for piebald catfish exist. The condition appears to be relatively common in channel catfish, but rarer in blues. According to some anglers, piebald fish are becoming increasingly common at Lake Eufala, indicating that a breeding population may exist there.
It is not known whether this piebald catfish was released or kept.
Image from Facebook