Even at 4 a.m., Walter Thompson could see the fish he had just reeled in at The Trestles last Thursday was a unique one.
The 42-year-old angler from Ponchatoula, was fishing near the lights by the drawbridge in Lake Pontchartrain with a Rat-L-Trap when he tossed in what he assumed was just another cookie cutter speck over the gunnels.
“We were casting into the big school of fish that was up underneath the lights. When I threw it in the boat, I grabbed my clippers to pick it up and I thought it was a bluefish at first so I was about to throw it over,” Thompson said. “Then I recognized the spots on the tail.
“I said, ‘Man, I never saw one like this,’ so I decided to keep it.”
Thompson was fishing with his fiancee’s dad, Dwayne Bryant, who also was puzzled by the fish’s weird appearance.
“He honestly thought it was a bluefish at first when he saw the face of it,” Thompson said. “I said, ‘Look at the body.’ He said to keep it — that Louisiana Sportsman might be interested in it.”
Dr. Kyle Piller, a fish geneticist at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond who reviewed Thompson’s pictures, ruled out a bluefish-speckled trout hybrid, but suspects this fish was simply deformed at birth.
“Most of the body of the specimen looks like a speckled trout,” Piller wrote in an email. “To me, it appears as though the upper-jaw and snout are deformed or are the result of a developmental abnormality.”
Jerald Horst, a regular contributor to Louisiana Sportsman magazine and a retired professor of fisheries at LSU, agreed that the photo showed a speckled trout with a deformity.
“Its condition is not due to injury, but rather is congenital,” Horst wrote in an email. “It is not an extremely rare condition and is seen in many species.
“Fish with the deformity are referred to as ‘snub-nosed’ by biologists.”
Thompson, who still has the fish in his freezer, reported last week’s trip was a success, with the pair taking 42 specks and five redfish — including his unique trout with a massive underbite.
“We were pretty much finished up by about 10:30,” he said.