Leopard Redfish

Richard Garcia Jr. holds the leopard redfish he caught while fishing around Bendewald Point and Long Lake near Seadrift earlier this month.

A Victoria man who described himself as “not much of an avid fisher” reeled in a rare catch last Saturday at Bendewald Point near Seadrift — a leopard redfish.

Richard Garcia Jr., 40, a surgical technician at DeTar Hospital Navarro, was fishing with his father when he felt something tugging the live mullet he was using as bait. Garcia bent over and stuck his fishing pole between his legs, as he struggled to control his line.

“I fought it for a couple minutes, and then it came towards the boat,” Garcia said. “It resembled an alligator gar.”

After reeling in the fish, Garcia discovered it was not an alligator gar or speckled trout. He had caught a leopard redfish, a variation of the red drum that resembles the appearance of the cat that bears part of its name.

When a Louisiana angler caught a leopard redfish in 2017, a retired biologist with the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries told a local newspaper the rare proliferation of spots on a redfish is genetic, as it comes from a recessive pigmentation trait from both parents. Garcia said he counted 185 spots on one side and estimated the fish has somewhere between 400 and 500 spots.

Another publication classified the fish as “extremely rare,” noting, too, it is the result of a genetic mutation.

Because he was awestruck by the leopard redfish, Garcia decided to share his find on social media.

“I posted photos on Facebook, and it just took off,” he said. “It’s nice to share that catch with the world.”

Garcia, who hopes to mount his find in the coming months, said the fish measures 30 inches in length with a 17-inch girth.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, redfish tend to live along the edges of a bay, which is where Garcia reeled in his find.

Garcia said his big catch came the day after he and his father failed to reel in a single fish. Before they started another session, the two fishermen sought some spiritual guidance.

“It’s crazy how a little prayer can go a long way,” Garcia said.

Leo Bertucci is a Report for America corps member who covers energy and environment for the Victoria Advocate.

Energy and Environment Reporter

Before moving to the Crossroads, Leo Bertucci studied journalism and political science at Western Kentucky University.