WEST ALTON, Mo. – Chad Hester was doing some overnight fishing this week in the Mississippi River near West Alton. Hester was with a friend when they couldn’t believe what they saw early Tuesday morning.
“I freaked out,” said Hester. “I was like holy cow.”
Using Asian Carp as bait, Hester caught a rare piebald blue catfish. The fish is distinct because it has both white and black markings. Hester quickly took some 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.
He also hopes anyone searching for some joy in their life will discover their own way to cope with stress.
Hester is a lifelong fisherman who learned how to fish from his father. 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 lb 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.