Anglers Land All-White ‘Billfish Unicorn’ Off Coast of Guatemala

by Vern Evans

Even in the sailfish capital of the world, a leucistic sailfish is an incredibly rare catch

A group of anglers with an all-white (leucistic) sailfish.

The group of anglers holds up the sail of the all-white sailfish, which had a genetic condition known as leucism. Photograph by Pacific Fins

Sailfish are gorgeous creatures, with their sweeping dorsal fins and striped, colorful sides that light up in blue, golden, and purple hues. You’d think that without all these colors, they would be a little less stunning. But you’d be wrong.

A fishing resort in Guatemala shared a picture of an all-white sailfish that a visiting angler caught over the weekend, and it’s an eerily beautiful creature. Its iridescent sides are somewhere between bright white and shiny chrome, and it has a translucent dorsal fin that you can see straight through. Except for its large, dark eyeball, the whole fish looks like it was dipped in liquid silver.

Pacific Fins Resort called it a “billfish unicorn” because of how rare these fish are. They also clarified that the sailfish was leucistic and not albino. Leucism is a genetic condition that causes animals to lose some or all of the pigment in their hair or skin, while albinism is a complete lack of pigmentation due to the absence of a particular enzyme.

“Whatever you want to call it, it’s a sight you will never forget,” Pacific Fins wrote in an Instagram post, adding that they haven’t seen a sailfish like this since 2018.

Leucism is more common than albinism, and it can affect mammals, birds, reptiles, and (obviously) fish. Outdoor Life has reported on several of these unique critters in the past, including a leucistic whitetail buck that a hunter killed in Virginia last November, and the giant leucistic flathead catfish that was caught in Nebraska in October.

Read Next: Hunter’s First Deer Is an Old, 8-Point Leucistic Buck

In the billfishing world, however, catching a leucistic marlin, swordfish, or sailfish is incredibly rare. Pacific Fins pointed out in its post that this is true even in Guatemala, which is widely considered the sailfish capital of the world. Tens of thousands of sails are caught and released off the Guatemalan coast each year, with boats averaging 10 to 20 bites per day during peak season, according to the resort. On March 11, 2006, a charter boat fishing in Guatemalan waters landed 124 sails, setting a world record for the most sailfish caught and released in one day.

Traveling angler Paul Renfro was in the fighting chair when the Pacific Fins crew landed the all-white sailfish. Renfro was fishing with a group aboard the outfitter’s new sportfishing boat, a 40-foot G&S named the Libertad. Pacific Fins said in the comment section that they released the trophy fish alive, but Renfro could still get a replica made to commemorate the catch.



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