Ryan Davison just caught a stunning all-black paddlefish. Davison works for Oklahoma Paddlefish Guide Service, based in Wagoner, Oklahoma. He caught the unusual fish during a solo after-hours snagging session. “After a day of guiding I went out for a little more excitement—and excitement is what I got,” explained Davison in a Facebook post.
Oklahoma Paddlefish Guide Service posted a video of the catch on Facebook. It shows Davison fighting the fish near the boat and nearly losing it before he eventually manages to slip a makeshift noose around the fish’s tail. “Well he ain’t no giant, but check out the color,” says Davison after boating the brute. “It’s a freaking black spoonbill!”
Paddlefish feed primarily on zooplankton and don’t take bait, so snagging is the main way of targeting them. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, paddlefish can live up to 50 years. They can grow over 7 feet long and weigh over 200 pounds. In Oklahoma, they are found primarily in the Grand Neosho and Arkansas river systems.
Davison’s fish almost certainly has a recessive genetic mutation called melanism. The condition results in the over-development of melanin in the skin, which causes animals to turn partially or fully black. The rare mutation is similar but distinct to other pigmentation disorders such as albinism and leucism. Davison released the all-black paddlefish.
“What a fight with a unicorn of paddlefish,” wrote Davison. “Without a doubt, [it’s] the only black paddlefish I have ever seen or even heard of!”