Spells strikes “gold” in the Ouachita River

Fisherman Tuffy Fields with the surprise catch.
Fisherman Tuffy Fields with the surprise catch.

Tuffy Spells has been fishing the Ouachita River and its backwaters for bream, bass, catfish and crappie for more than 50 years. He’s also been commercial fishing almost that long and has seen a lot of strange things.

But what he caught in one of his nets this past weekend even surprised him. It looked at first like a giant goldfish, but it was a 20-pound bright orange Koi (pronounced “coy”). He said he has never seen anything like it.

“I’ve caught some strange things in the past, but there is no question this is the strangest,” he said. “I’ve never caught one like this before and I don’t know how it could have gotten there. I’m sure glad I caught it during the daytime because I don’t know what I would have thought if it had been at night.”

A biologist who examined photos of the fish confirmed it was a koi fish and it was probably released into the river by someone who had raised them in an ornamental pond years ago. Common carp, or fancier koi, are both in the same family and they can live as long as 20 years. No age estimate was available on this fish.

This fish was caught in the backwater off the Ouachita River near the Felsenthal Lock and Dam area. Like most Louisiana waters, the Ouachita is well above major flood stage and has inundated thousands of acres of land around the river. It is expected to stay that way for weeks.  The Ouachita runs through Louisiana from the Arkansas state line joining the Tensas River to form the Black River near Jonesville. It is the 25th-longest river in the United States.

Koi is an informal group of Japanese carp with varieties marked by bright coloration, patterning and large scales. Major colors include black, red, orange, yellow and cream. They feed off invertebrates filtered off of muddy lake and river bottoms.

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About Kinny Haddox 494 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.