‘Ugly fish’ caught in Vermont pond ignites debate. ‘Like it came out of an acid bath’

A strange looking fish pulled from an iced-over Vermont pond has ignited an online debate about what exactly made it so “ugly.”

It’s assumed to be a chain pickerel, which are typically green and covered in “dark chain-like patterns.”

But this one looks more like a lab experiment: cream colored, with gray splotches and an odd yellow racing stripe down one side.

“Check out this odd looking chain pickerel,” the online angler group Vermont Fishing wrote on Facebook on Feb. 2.

“Anyone ever seen or caught anything like this? Is it a partial albino? A pie-bald fish? While it almost looks like a fish that’s been laying in a cooler in direct contact with ice for a few hours, the angler ensures us that it came through the hole exactly as you see it.”

College student Caden Hurley and his ice fishing buddies Dylan Partlow and Ryan Vassuer caught the fish Jan. 28 on Sabin Pond in Woodbury.

Hurley said they were definitely taken off guard by what came out of the ice.

“We saw the flag and went running,” Hurley told McClatchy News. “When we pulled it out, we knew the species, (but) ... I said ‘Dude look at this thing.’ I’d guess 22-24 (inches) and 3 pounds. We took our fair share of pictures and released it.”

Hurley hasn’t weighed into the online debate.

Vermont Fishing asked its 7,100 Facebook followers if they had caught anything like it, and responses suggest its rare.

Many guessed the fish was either a hybrid or a mutant born of water contamination.

Still others suggested it was something other than a pickerel.

This is what a chain pickerel looks like.

“One ugly fish,” Sterling Pelsue wrote. “Looks like it came out of an acid bath.”

“I think it’s super cool. I know it’s a major mutation but I think it looks awesome,” Carly Buswell posted.

“I would have kept it and put it on the wall,” Reva Bartlett said.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources confirmed to McClatchy News on Feb. 6 the fish is a chain pickerel, but counts as “a truly unusual catch.”

“It looks like a healthy individual exhibiting a condition called leucism,” the department said in an email.

“Leucism is a pigment condition that can unevenly affect coloration across an animal, resulting in white patches of varying extent. ... Unlike true albinism, leucism does not affect the eyes. ... In the case of this chain pickerel, you can see that the eyes are a normal color for a member of this species.”

Hurley, a civil engineering major at Norwich University, says he appreciates the interest in fishing the debate has generated.

“I didn’t realize it would get so much attention, but it’s great to see so many people interested in it, and a pretty cool memory for me and the boys,” he said.

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