Fisherman hooks albino rarity

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:43 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
John Young was understandably shocked when he pulled a 53-pound albino blue catfish out of the Missouri River on Saturday. Albino catfish, especially those weighing more than 50 pounds, are incredibly rare.

John Young is used to catching big fish.

As a competitive fisherman, Young has caught roughly 30 catfish that weigh more than 50 pounds each, with two of them upward of 70 pounds.

But even the most experienced fisherman could be taken aback by what Young found on the end of his line Saturday.

The goal for Young and his friends was to catch some sizable fish. With lines cast and using skipjack herring as bait, the four of them were grilling on the front of their boat, waiting for the catfish to bite. Most catfish don’t start biting until after dark, Young said, so when he noticed he had a big fish on his line around 7:30 p.m., it was unexpected. As the fish came into view, the anglers couldn’t believe their eyes.

The 53-pound blue catfish that Young landed fishing a sandbar on the Missouri River above Boonville was an albino. While the sheer size of the fish alone is remarkable, being an albino makes it a rarity. The specimen, currently held in a tank at Tombstone Tackle, is headed for the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

“Normally we see some, but very few. I’ve never seen one that big,” said Craig Gemming, a fisheries management biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Usually because of their color, it’s easy for predators to prey on them, and they usually don’t live long enough to get that big.”

After hearing about Young’s unusual catch, Ken Freeman Outdoor Promotions asked Young to donate the fish to the Tennessee Aquarium. The company sponsors the Bass Pro Shop Big Cat Quest, and its owner, Ken Freeman, knows Young through his participation in the event. Young plans to make the trip to Chattanooga to see his fish on display.

“We’ve been checking into the records. and we can’t find one bigger ever being caught,” Young said.

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