Odd-finned carp pulled from I&M Canal creates e-wave of fish talk [Photo]

By Jeff Dankert
LaSalle News-Tribune

LaSalle, Ill. —  Sometimes you reel in a fish that makes you say, “What the?”

John Gillio, of Oglesby, did that while fly fishing the Illinois and Michigan (I&M) Canal near Lock 14 in La Salle on June 20.

Gillio caught and released three common carp like no others he had ever seen.

They looked normal but with long, wavy fins seen in fancy, ornamental carp hybrids such as koi or goldfish.

“I thought somebody had a fancy carp in a pond and dumped them in the canal,” Gillio said.

Gillio snapped photos and had a passerby shoot a photo of him with one. He shared the photos with the a local newspaper, which in turn shared the photos with fisheries biologists in the state.

The intrigued biologists circulated the photos round and roundvia emails, eventually reaching an aquaculture specialist in Florida.

Matt Diana, of the Illinois Natural History Survey, concluded that the fish looked like a fantail common carp.

“My understanding is it is a relatively rare genetic mutation that can happen in common carp and a few other related species,” Diana said. “They are uncommon, but anglers do catch them periodically. I really don’t know much about them other than what I have heard from anglers. I have not seen one myself.”

Diana searched a little more and contacted the LaSalle News Tribune.

“I was looking for a description in the scientific literature and haven’t come across any,” he told one of the newspaper’s outdoors writers. “I couldn’t confirm if it is genetic or hybridization.”

Jason A. DeBoer, large river fisheries ecologist with the INHS, agreed with Diana.

“I do know that koi breeders select for that fantail trait, and market them as butterfly koi,” DeBoer said.

Trent Thomas, a fisheries biologist with DNR, said he and colleague Rob Miller had never seen these fish before. DNR Spokesman Chris Young circulated the email to Kevin Irons, DNR aquaculture and aquatic nuisance species biologist.

“I would think this was a wild-born common carp that had a koi as a parent or grandparent,” Irons said. “Koi are carp that have been raised and bred for the long fins over generations, perhaps hundreds or thousands of years.”

Irons forwarded the photos to Jeffrey E. Hill, associate professor and extension specialist in the tropical aquaculture laboratory at the University of Florida, who called it a “really interesting specimen.”

“I think what was caught was actually a long-finned common carp variety rather than a koi variety,” Hill said. “Same species, but common carp come in many genetic varieties. I am not an expert on carp genetics but this closely resembles the long-finned Indonesian common carp that is purported to be the group bred into koi to produce long-finned koi.”

Hill said long-finned genetic anomalies are common in the family of fishes that include carp.

Whatever it is, Gillio said he will be looking for more.

“If I see them again I’ll be fishing for them because they were fun to catch,” he said.

Irons said it was good that Gillio snapped photos before releasing them.

“A very nice catch, and on a fly rod nonetheless,” Irons said. “I am glad that a picture was taken. Serves as a nice memento, for sure.”

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