An angler recently pulled a blue catfish of extremely unusual color from the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. Daimon Drymon, a kayak angler from Redbank, Tennessee, caught a piebald blue catfish on August 19 near where Suck Creek empties into the Tennessee River. It’s just a few miles downstream from Chattanooga.
Drymon was drift fishing in the middle of the river with a circle hook with 7 more chicken liver baits when he got hooked. Using a 5 ½-foot medium-heavy rod spooled with 17-pound monofilament fishing line, he took his time playing the fish. After about 10 minutes of wrangling, he got his first look at the surprising catch.
“When it came out and I actually saw (as) the color setup of it, I was amazed and had fun with it,” Drymon shares. F&S. “I was pretty much like, ‘Oh my God.’ I just caught a cow catfish’”.
The blue catfish was mostly white, with dark gray spots scattered across its back and pink visible on its fins and bill. The blue cat’s eyes were not pink, as is usually the case with albino fish. Piebald fish – or horses, dogs, birds and, yes, cows – are thought to have leucism, a condition caused by defects in pigment cells in the skin, hair or feathers that can lead to animals that are all white or white spot mixed with normal color.
The Tennessee River is a hot spot for odd catfish catches
The Tennessee River, which begins in Knoxville and flows through parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky before emptying into the Ohio River at Paducah, has produced some atypical blue catfish in the Chattanooga area recently. In April, Farrah Reidt caught a 33-inch albino blue catfish while night fishing near downtown. In June, 15-year-old Edwards Tarumianz caught an all-white blue cat while fishing on a charter boat in Chattanooga. Tarumianz’s fish had pink fins but no pink eyes, suggesting it may have been leucistic. In September 2021, another angler caught a leucistic blue catfish in the tailwaters of Chickamauga Dam, which is also on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga.
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For most anglers, catching a leucist is a once-in-a-lifetime event. “I actually didn’t know anything about it until I finished it,” Drymon says. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as a piebald catfish. After catching it, I paddled over to a dock where some fishermen were hanging out. One of them is a charter captain who has been fishing up and down the Tennessee River for years, and he’s never seen one. He was quite amazed by it too.”
Drymon didn’t get a length or weight on the fish, though he estimated it weighed about 15 pounds. After snapping a few photos, he posted it. “Whenever I catch really nice catfish, I always want to get them back in the water as quickly as possible,” he says, “so other people can catch them.”