Talkin' Outdoors

There is a food item I absolutely love and the highlighted item is abundant around these parts, especially this time of year.

I love fried fish, freshly caught slathered in yellow mustard, dusted with Louisiana Crispy Fish Fry coating and dropped into a gurgling pot of hot peanut oil. I’ll take a plate of these crispy tasty morsels any day over steak from the grill.

A favorite fish that features a delicate flavor and ultra-white flesh is crappie. These are absolutely hard to beat, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a white crappie, black crappie….or Magnolia crappie.

Whoa….Magnolia crappie? What the heck is that? I only recently learned about these fish after catching one this spring and having my retired fisheries biologist Mike Wood identify it for me.

“These fish are not really all that uncommon,” Wood said. “I caught one this spring myself and locally, it’s called a ‘black nosed’ crappie.” The fish gets its name from a narrow black stripe extending from the top of the back to the tip of its nose, says Wood.

“In the state of Mississippi, they are raising these unusual fish and are isolating them from regular white and black crappie to come up with this rather unique mutation, the Magnolia crappie. When they sample fish in lakes in that state, they look for and isolate fish with this physical trait,” Wood added.

As unusual as these black nosed crappie are, Wood recently ran across another unusual fish that caught his attention, posting photos on Facebook that caught my attention as well.

“I was in a kayak on Cheniere Lake that has been drawn down and I spotted something I had to get close enough for a better look. The fish I saw, and was able to scoop up in a dip net, was a spotted gar, the smallest of the garfish species we have in the state,” Wood said.

“What was so unusual about this fish was the color; it was a bright golden color. After examining the fish and taking photos, I released it back into the lake.” Wood noted that he has also seen a crappie taken from Lake D’Arbonne that had the exact same golden color.

This particular garfish and the golden crappie, according to the biologist, are a genetic mutation that makes the gold colors of the body stand out.

A mutation of what is normal can rarely but occasionally cause fish like this gar to exhibit unusual characteristics. On the wild game front, sometimes deer and other species display colors unusual for the variety of animal.

Deer, and other cervids such as elk and moose, sometimes reveal “piebald” features. Genetic mutation at work in some of these animals results in what is typically brown to be displayed as white. A pure white animal with pink eyes is probably an albino but piebald animals may have blotches and patches of white mixed with brown.

I once sat in my deer stand before hunting season observing deer feeding on my food plot. One was a piebald having all four legs solid white, as if it were wearing white stockings.

Nature is an interesting lady. If you spend enough time in the outdoors, chances are good that eventually, she’ll show you something unusual and different. But golden gar? That just about takes the cake.