Monster plec pays student's college fees

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A record breaking suckermouthed catfish, (Pterygoplichthys sp.) has helped fund the college education of a Texan teen.

Andrew Cumberland was fishing for sunfish in the Guadalupe River, Texas when he spotted a large, unfamiliar fish, similar to the one pictured above, browsing in the shallows.

He quickly changed bait to a dough ball which immediately attracted the attentions of the curious catfish which he hooked and landed.

Unsure as to just what he'd caught, he took it for identification by experts at the State Hatchery in San Marcos. Here the mysterious fish was identified as a suckermouth catfish, a native of the Amazon region of South America.

Measuring 53cm/21" and weighing in at over 1.5kg/3.4lb, the fish was confirmed as a record rod caught specimen for the state.

The colossal cat has now left Cumberland $10,000 closer to a college education, after it triggered two $5,000 scholarships from the Federation of Student Anglers (F.S.A.) of which Cumberland is a member.

The F.S.A. offers $5,000 to members capturing a Texan state record and a further $5,000 for members doing this in an official F.S.A. tournament which is exactly what Cumberland did.

Unfortunately the fish was not so lucky and the loricariid was killed in line with Texas state law which demands anglers destroy any they catch.

The species was first recorded in the San Antonio River in the 1950's, but has spread to form breeding populations in many Texas waterways, with a recent study of a stretch of the San Marcos River showing 51% of the fish biomass was made up of the alien catfish.

The plecs' omnivorous diet and digging behaviour while feeding are destroying food chains and out-competing native species, while their breeding burrows are causing accelerated rates of erosion with the silt produced damaging downstream habitat.

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