A koi by any other name smells the same — like a carp.
Even so, a monster koi with a whitish-pink body, long, frilly fins and protruding "eyebrows" was among the hundreds of fish saved this week by the state Game, Fish & Parks Department at Memorial Pond.
As the water level was dropped in preparation for a $1.2-million construction project in and near the pond, GF&P crews determined the fish wouldn't survive for long. So they began a rescue operation that captured more than 500 fish, most of which are now swimming in new waters.
For the big koi, a member of the carp family that has captured the imagination of anglers at Memorial Pond for years, home is now the Jolly Lane Greenhouse in east Rapid City.
Things were going swimmingly for Jolly Lane partner Todd Sime on Friday afternoon after the koi delivery by GF&P.
"I put him in my outside pond, because he was too big for the inside one," Sime said. "He's a big one."
The koi was never weighed, but the fisheries crew and shoreline experts estimated it to be between 20 to 30 pounds. And it wasn't the only lunker hauled out of the waning waters of Memorial Pond on Friday morning.
There was a channel catfish estimated at 20 pounds, plus a handful of northern pike from 10 to 20 pounds each. They were part of about 150 fish taken Friday, including an assortment of smaller largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappies and a couple of rainbow trout.
Added to the rescue total earlier in the week, which included green sunfish, rock bass, bullheads and shiners, Friday's effort brought the total number of fish removed to more than 500.
The fish rescued Friday were taken to Bear Butte Lake near Sturgis, where the big catfish and northern pike will provide trophy fishing potential and help control the overpopulating bullheads.
Other fish have gone to the GF&P pond at the Outdoor Campus-West, as well as the large aquarium of local fish inside the facility. Rough fish were killed and frozen to be used as fertilizer by GF&P.
But the biggest and most flamboyantly attired of the rough fish, the koi, deserved royal treatment, said Keith Wintersteen, an Outdoor Campus-West naturalist.
"We all looked at each other and said 'We can't kill the koi,'" he said. "We're emotionally invested in it."
Others shared that investment. The Memorial Pond koi was likely dumped in the pond by someone who took it out of a private pond. For years it had captured attention but avoided lures and baits in the tiny reservoir near the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Other trophies also attracted anglers of all ages to the pond. John Brewick, a retired Rapid City teacher, was a regular there for many years. And he came out Friday to see what he had been missing all those years.
"It's sad to see this fishery go," he said. "But I think it will be back."
That's the plan by GF&P. Regional fisheries manager Gene Galinat said he would prefer to manage the pond as a trout fishery without the complications of the general public's unauthorized stocking. The large northern pike in the lake, also likely the products of some citizen fish stocking, clearly feasted on smaller fish, including rainbow trout stocked by GF&P.
"When the water comes back up, we'll be putting in catchable rainbows. I think we could make a real quality trout fishery here," Galinat said. "I think we could keep catch rates high and make people happy. When you throw in a bunch of other species, it really complicates things."
Brewick understands that and loves to catch trout. But he also likes angling for a variety of fish and thinks young anglers do too.
"I like a diversity," he said.
The diversity of fish in the pond was initially expected to survive the construction project, but the pond turned out to be shallower than expected. And with levels drastically reduced for construction work and warmer weather coming, the outlook for the fish turned grim.
"At this level, we're expected to lose that fishery when the water warms up," Galinat said. "We're trying to get out as many fish as we can."
A GF&P fisheries crew used waders, hand-held dip nets and a compact electro-fishing pack earlier in the week to capture fish. On Friday, they used a small, flat-bottomed boat pushed with oars through shallow water churning with fish. A crew member dropped the shocking wand over the side.
The electro-fishing wand sends a charge through the water, stunning the fish and bringing them whirling or thrashing to the surface. There they are netted and lugged to a GF&P fish truck nearby.
There could be another rescue effort next week. There were still more fish roiling the water in little pockets between thick mats of exposed vegetation Friday.
There are certain to be more bass, crappies and perch, and probably a big pike or two.
Another koi has been spotted in the pond from time to time. It is a distinctive black and white and fairly good sized.
How big might it be? Only the pond knows for now. But GF&P might find out next week.