Bronze fish missing from iconic IU fountain found

Courtesy of Indiana University - the fish was replaced in 1987
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Talk about a big fish tale. A dolphin that was part of a well-known sculpture on the campus of Indiana University is found years after it was stolen. The real mystery: Where has it been?

If dolphins talked, this one could tell a whale of a tale. The stolen sculpture is still swimming in mystery.

"I do believe this disappeared in 2010. I'm not absolutely certain," said Sherry Rouse, IU art curator.

IU believes the recovered dolphin is one of the five originals made in Rome in 1958. A Detroit artist who created replacements is doing the restoration work for free. The replacements run more than $50,000 each.

Rouse, art curator and now detective, is certain only that this is one of the three Showalter Fountain fish stolen over the decades and never found.

"There is a lot of detective work to do," Rouse admitted.

The dolphin's return to safe harbor is beyond three locked doors. It began a month ago with a picture posted to Instagram.

"A picture of this fish in an alley full of bottles and glass," said Rouse.

The other dolphins waited patiently as Rouse negotiated treacherous waters

"A person who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. There was no direct contact," she said.

The dolphins and their mistress Venus make IU's Showalter Fountain a landmark and playful work of art. In times of great basketball victories and campus turmoil, tradition dictates the fish are stolen and returned within a few months.

As a precaution workers netted the remaining dolphins and locked them away during IU's tournament run. Their missing schoolmate returned Friday.

"I suggest we say we won't pursue charges. We just want the dolphin back," said Rouse.

The 350-pound sculpture took a beating "from beer bottles? I don't know what did this. Maybe a hammer; I don't know."

Rouse believes there are numerous culprits in at least two states and is saying no more. At least IU got their dolphin back.

Unlike Flipper, this dolphin is clammed up. Venus is the only witness and her lips are sealed.

Rouse hopes to have the fish restored and back on the fountain in time for this month's Little 500 weekend.