A Plattsburgh woman caught a fish in Lake Champlain last week that has the fishing community buzzing, and garnered her some worldwide media attention.
Debbie Geddes of Plattsburgh was fishing offshore of Clinton County on Aug. 16 when she landed a lake trout that had two mouths.
One was a functioning, toothy mouth, which took the blue and white Evil Eye spoon she and her husband were trolling about 80 feet below the surface near Crab Island. The other, hanging below the mouth, was a clear jaw with teeth as well.
The fish, estimated to be about 23 inches long, appeared healthy otherwise, Geddes said. Not realizing the uproar the mutant would cause when its picture was publicized, Geddes tossed it back.
"It put up a pretty good fight, probably because it had two mouths," the 57-year-old avid angler said.
Geddes, an avid fisherwoman with many nice lake trout landed to her credit, became a sought-after interview for media around the world after the picture was posted on Facebook fishing groups.
Some questioned whether the first picture that circulated was altered, but Geddes has pictures taken from a number of different anglers, all seeming to show the same fish.
She said she has since regretted returning the fish to the lake.
"I had no idea this was going to happen," she said.
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Nicole Balk, a state Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries biologist who works on Lake Champlain, said the deformed fish is not the first of its kind, as such anomalies do occur from time to time.
"It's not unheard of," she said.
So what could have caused the deformity?
Balk said pollution or other environmental problems wouldn't appear to be to blame, as the lake's lake trout fishery is doing well.
She said that fish eggs sometimes stick together before they hatch, which leads to deformities from the fish that result. She said such deformities are sometimes seen in fish hatcheries as well.
A Vermont expert agreed, telling the Burlington Free Press newspaper that an "embryonic mutation" was likely to blame.
But that expert, Ellen Marsden, a professor of fisheries at University of Vermont's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, added that "There are many, many causes for abnormalities" in aquatic life.
Studies of similar fish deformities around the world have also found a number of potential causes for deformities, ranging from hereditary or environmental issues, such as a healed injury or vitamin deficiency.