George Tassin, Jr. of Slidell has been running lines and taking bounties of fish from the West Pearl River and its tributaries for many years. Recently, as he reached into the murky water of Doubloon Bayou to retrieve a fish from beneath the water’s surface, Tassin fixated on a giant golden flathead catfish that had given in to the bait on the line and was now hooked and ready for the taking. What began as just another regular day of checking lines and collecting the catch transformed into a Good Friday blessing many have never experienced.
“I didn’t know what the hell it was,” Tassin said. “I didn’t have a scale, but I just knew it was a big fish when I pulled the line up!”
Gold fish with whiskers
Tassin normally baits his hooks in the late evening and checks lines early the next morning. It was 7 a.m. when Tassin retrieved the fish and immediately identified the rare specimen that resembled a goldfish on steroids, just with whiskers.
The strange event seemed fueled by chance and luck. Tassin typically uses Zote soap as his bait of choice and notes that its color options of white and pink are determined by water clarity. Regardless of the color, Tassin estimates one bar baits 70 to 80 hooks.
The oddity, though, came with the fact that Tassin happened to have a perch in his possession and baited this particular hook with it. It was the hottest item on the menu with the massive golden seizing the meal. He still questions if his alternative concoction of marinated chicken breast in garlic powder and cherry Jell-O mix would have enticed the creature and yielded the same result as the sacrificed perch.
“It was really something to see,” he said. “I called different friends, and no one has heard of a golden flathead catfish. There does not seem to be a lot of information out there.”
A rare fish
Seasoned anglers have reported interesting and odd sites previously, with many being albino mutations of varied species of fish. Mike Wood, a fisheries biologist, reiterated the rare quality of golden fish here in Louisiana and attributed the sight to Xanthochromism.
“Xanthochromism is a genetic mutation that can occur in fish and other animals,” said Wood. “The golden color is not dictated by location.”
Xanthochromism describes variation in pigmentation. Fish like the one caught by Tassin, possess a higher quantity of yellow pigmentation. Wood indicated seeing a fish with xanthochromism does not happen regularly, but one of impressive size is even more surprising.
“These fish are scarce, and for one to grow so large is remarkable,” Wood said. “They lack camouflage and usually get eaten by other fish while they are small in size.”
The rare fish currently resides in a holding tank on the side of his pier at Tassin’s home. He is trying to correctly identify the fish and see if any applicable entity wishes to tag or study it. He indicated the fish seems so rare that he wants to ensure it survives and breeds.
“I certainly wouldn’t eat it,” Tassin said. “I’ll release it if I have to so it can grow and live a long life.”
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