The Worst Dressed List

February 1, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

This is continued from last week, The Best Dressed List.

In keeping with last week’s “award show” theme, it’s now time to focus on those fisheries fashion faux-pas. As with Hollywood, even local lakes and streams have their worst-dressed individuals, and much like US magazine or some other tabloid that makes its money off of awards-night no-nos, Our Outdoors highlights the heinous fish that live in our area.

No bull

They’re small, slimy, stinky and scary looking. Most every angler has dealt with them and probably got their start catching them. Bullheads somehow seem to draw the ire of anglers from an early age. Most people quickly get over the excitement of a wriggling, writhing, coating-your-line-with-slime bullhead, and move on to better looking quarries. Who could blame them? With a coloration that runs from bile-yellow to muddy black, the various species of bullheads within our waters just don’t share in the trend of fashionable river wear. Add to their bodily appearance a beard of long gangly whiskers and they take the award from Tom Hanks in his Castaway days as most unkempt, and that’s no bull.

That’s sooo Jurassic Era

One finned celebrity that should get with the times is the sturgeon. Its thin shark-like frame is pretty much out on the fisheries scene, replaced by more fashionable scaled colleagues. The addition of bony plates and scutes along the body shows that this fish is truly living in the past. Those tiny eyes and down turned mouth give it a look of perpetual sadness; and that pale skin, especially in the pallid members of the family, just adds to the isolationist aura of this fish. Apparently, this prehistoric Pisces is a blast to tangle with, despite not being very attractive. The battles are intense, especially when the fish can top ten feet in length and weigh several hundred pounds. At least it has that going for it.

Carpe don’t-em

A fish that has never been known for its looks, or its ability to win a popularity contest, is the carp. From large scales and huge lumbering frame to its suction-type mouth designed for feeding on the bottom, a carp just doesn’t embody that perfect fish every angler looks for. Usually an accidental snag, these denizens of the muck-covered bottom keep anglers in suspense until they see exactly what it is on the other end of the line. Such a hooking most likely ends in disappointment. One thing the carp does have going for it is a wave of popularity in Europe, the origin of great fashions. This love of carp however, is one trend that will take some time to catch on in the states.

Cat’s meow

Catfish must have a great personality, because angling for them has been on the rise throughout most of the region. However, their looks make them number two on the list of scary appearances, especially the flathead members of the family. Those beady eyes, gaping mouths and slime-covered bodies make for a fish only a mother could love, or a die-hard cat angler. Living off the dead and dying, catfish don’t have the most appealing choice in fare, but they have to take what they can get. With some specimens eclipsing 25 pounds, the chance to tangle with a big cat is something anglers will remember, perhaps specifically for the fish’s looks.

And the “winner” is…

This week’s award for worst-dressed fish goes to a species of many names. Lawyer, bourbot, eelpout, call it what you will; the ling is a spooky looking fish, which always appears out of its element. This only freshwater member of cod family is a fish-out-of-water with the many saltwater characteristics it has brought to the lakes and streams of the area. Long, slimy and snakelike in appearance with an over-sized head, the ling hides its tasty fillets under a gangly body. Most often mistaken for a walleye or pike of similar size when first hooked, the ling is a disappointment to many anglers, especially ice fishermen. The city of Walker, Minn. has taken ugly to a new level each year with a week-long celebration of the ling, showcasing the inner-beauty of this fish, which is used as a bowling ball, croquet mallet or golf-club once caught. Talk about appreciation!

Hopefully these fish realize in some way that every angler enjoys them for some aspect; but what they lack in popularity and good looks is exactly what has helped them earn their spots atop the list of the worst-dressed fish…in our outdoors.


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