One lucky Virginia fisherman got more than he was angling for when he reeled in a rare golden largemouth bass.
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Jacob Moore was practicing for an upcoming fishing tournament on the James River, where he had been catching largemouth bass and throwing them back. But he was in for a big surprise when he reeled in a striking yellow-scaled fish, which clocked in at 16.5 inches in length.
“I was on the lower James near Chippokes [State Park],” Moore told the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. “When I hooked into that one, I thought I had a saltwater fish on at first, but lo and behold, it was a largemouth! A very different largemouth, though. I haven’t seen anything like that before. I’ve seen bass with black spots, but I’d never seen an albino one.”
Moore’s find is an especially interesting one. Golden largemouth bass are essentially the stuff of legends, at least by fishermen’s standards.
“Golden largemouth bass are extremely rare, and most anglers have never seen them, let alone heard of them before,” said Alex McCrickard, an Aquatic Education Coordinator at the Virginia DWR, in a press release.
The fish’s deep yellow hue is actually the product of a genetic mutation. The golden largemouth bass has a form of xanthism, which alters its skin pigments, according to McCrickard. The yellowish pigmentation becomes the dominant shade, which explains the bass’s shimmery saffron scales. Where albinism in animals and humans affects the production of melanin, the same pigment that colors skin, hair, and eyes, xanthism is an abundance of yellow pigment instead.
According to the Virginia DWR, largemouth bass can and do vary in appearance. They may be found with “dark blotches” along their bodies that form a “dark horizontal band” from the fish’s midline all the way to its tail. But the golden variant is in a completely different ballpark.
Moore’s catch (which he did throw back) is a true fisherman’s tale, and one that he’ll undoubtedly remember for some time.
Want to try and track down one of the gilded fish for bragging rights? The Virginia DWR suggests traveling to a variety of nearby locations in the state, such as the James River, Lake Anna, Lake Gaston, Western Branch Reservoir, and more. You aren’t guaranteed to find a golden fish, but you’ll almost certainly stumble upon plenty of its more common brethren from late April to early June.