WEST ALTON, Mo. (KTVI) — Chad Hester was doing some overnight fishing last week in the Mississippi River in Missouri when he and a friend came across something they almost couldn’t believe.
“I freaked out,” said Hester. “I was like ‘Holy cow.’”
Using Asian carp as bait, Hester caught an extremely rare piebald blue catfish. The fish is distinct because it has both white and black markings.
Hester quickly took photos and weighed the fish at 36 pounds. He then recorded a video showing the release of the fish back into the water.
“That way he can spread his genes in the wild, and somebody else might have the opportunity to catch him,” Hester said.
Some fishing enthusiasts refer to the fish as a “one-in-a-million” catch. Hester plans to have someone create a replicate he can hang on his living room wall.
Hester is a lifelong fisherman who learned how to fish from his father. He said fishing helps him escape his worries.
“The second I step out of a vehicle with a rod in my hand and touch water, all that goes away,” he said.
Piebalds resemble ordinary blue catfish, but they stand out because their white skin is marbled with prominent grey blotches. This also puts them at a disadvantage in the wild because it sticks out to predators.
How rare are they? For instance, the Lower Mississippi Conservation Committee catches tens of thousands of ordinary catfish every year. In 2014, they only caught two Piebald Blue catfish.
The stretch of the Mississippi River near Alton has seen its share of record-setting catches.
A Florissant man caught a record-setting 130-pound catfish there in 2010. An Alton man landed a 124-pounder in 2005.
Piebald Blue catfish don’t appear to get that big, but catching one can be just as memorable.