The Ugly Fish

February 22, 2011 by  

Our Outdoors – By Nick Simonson

I’ll admit it. I enjoy The Soup on E! Network. Joel McHale watches all the crap TV shows, makes fun of each in a thirty-second clip and moves on so I get all the best, worst and weirdest parts of what happened from what I’d never watch on TV last week. After a fishing trip that went into the wee hours of the morning, I caught up with The Soup, and as the DVR recording was winding down, a portion of the next show, Fashion Police came on.

Apparently, on Fashion Police, Joan Rivers and a bunch of Hollywood fashion critics (a panel including, by some miracle, Kelly Osborne, the daughter of the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne himself, if you can believe that) get together, badmouth how people look on the red carpet at one of the season’s 43 award shows and then move on. Thankfully, the DVR recording wrapped up three minutes into the show, and I wasn’t exposed to it any longer than that, but it got me thinking. What if there were award shows for the fish in our waters; and what would we, as anglers, say about those unattractive fish in attendance as they swam down the red carpet?

Bully

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.

So Dated

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 aura of this fish.

The Red Carp-et

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 does little for the eyes, but it can get the heart racing, though not for it’s attractiveness. 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 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 table fare, but they have to take what they can get. With some specimens of blue cats eclipsing 100 pounds, the chance to tangle with a big cat is something anglers will remember, and probably, if it’s a big bloated rolling specimen, specifically for the fish’s looks.

And the “winner” is…

The award season’s worst dressed award goes to a fish of many names: bourbot, lawyer ling or its more famous moniker, the eelpout. It 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 of the region. Most often mistaken for a walleye of similar size when first hooked through the ice, the eelpout is a disappointment to many anglers, especially as it comes up the hole. However, for one week, the city of Walker, Minn. celebrates the inner-beauty of this fish during its annual Eelpout Festival. Where between fishing derbies, a 5K and a variety of social events, the eelpout is placed in high esteem, shown by many when it is used as a bowling ball, a croquet mallet or a golf-club once caught. Talk about appreciation!

Hopefully these fish realize in some way that every angler enjoys them for something (though most likely not their appearance); but what they lack in popularity and good looks is exactly what has helped them earn their spots atop the list of the least fashionable fish…in our outdoors.


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