Amazon catfish caught in Atchafalaya River

2-pound specimen likely a pet that was released, LDWF biologist says

About 500 yards north of Melville on the Atchafalaya River, Barbara Ducote landed a strange looking fish earlier this month that even initially puzzled the experts.

According to, Ducote was fishing with a worm when she reeled in a spotted shovelnose catfish, a species native to the Amazon River in South America — not the Atchafalaya Basin in South Louisiana.

There’s no way to tell exactly if the fish traveled more than 2,000 miles before it wound up on the business end of Ducote’s hook, but according to Jody David, a biologist manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the most likely scenario involved someone releasing a pet they no longer wanted.

The South American catfish is identified by a black striped color pattern over a mostly tan or light brown body. The largest specimen on record was 55 inches long, so Ducote’s fish — which tipped the scales at about 2 pounds and measured almost 20 inches — wasn’t a monster as spotted tiger shovelnose catfish go, but it’s incredibly likely that it will be the largest ever caught in the Atchafalaya River.

A Melville store plans on mounting the fish and putting it on display, David said.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s best not to release foreign species into local waters. However, it’s a reminder that no matter how much time you spend on the water, there’s always the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime catch every single day.