Was a 3-Eyed Catfish Really Caught in the Gowanus Canal?

Photo: Anonymous via Gothamist

The website Gothamist has reeled in a video of a man fishing off the Hamilton Avenue Bridge into the fetid murk of the Gowanus Canal who appears to have caught a three-eyed mutated catfish. The video is from the point of view of a passerby, who happens upon the man with the fish at his feet. Apparently, someone had told this person with the camera about the fish, which otherwise doesn’t seem to have excited the flannel-clad angler, who continued to fish. The narration: “Dude … that’s nuts! … It’s got three eyes!”

The third eye is centered smack-dab in the middle of the fish’s head, suspiciously symmetrical for a mutation. The fisherman claims to have used cheesy bread, probably from that canal-front Whole Foods nearby, to bait the fish, which bears more resemblance to an exhausted bicycle tire than a living creature. 

As Gothamist notes, there was the three-eyed fish caught near an Argentinian nuclear power plant in 2011, which of course reminded everyone of the three-eyed fish Blinky caught near the Springfield power plant in The Simpsons.

Last year, there was another one, more convincingly asymmetrical in its mutation, caught in a Canada’s Lake Nippissing.

Of course, the internet loves its Nessie-like mutant sightings: Remember the Montauk Monster of 2008? Or the one Gothamist also found, in 2012, washed up out of the East River? Or the mystery sea creature with “fur” and a “beak” that washed up on a Russian seacoast this summer? Or the putatively irradiated Japanese monster fish from September that turned out to be merely a big, ugly Bering wolffish?

Which isn’t to dismiss the fact that pollution does cause mutations. But for our flannel-clad fisher friend, the more immediate danger is that eating the fish, as he said he planned to do, isn’t advisable even if the fish had only two eyes. The man can anticipate a hearty dose of PCBs and heavy metals like arsenic when he puts that baby on the skillet — all toxic to the human body.

But warnings aside, this hasn’t stopped a legion of brave, and maybe a little bit mutated in the head, fisherman from trying their luck in the superfund stream over the years.

Still, in the past five years, an uptick in wildlife and birds in the canal’s marshes has been reported. A far cry from a period when “a dead dog would just float back and forth with the tides between Third Street and Carroll for maybe a week,” as one real-estate agent told the New York Times in 1999. A long-awaited dredging begins next year to clean the toxic sediment sludge, or black mayonnaise, from the canal floor.

Three-Eyed Fish by Gothamist
3-Eyed Fish Caught in Gowanus Canal