Indiana bass angler Bob Golec struck gold in Michigan over Memorial Day weekend. Fishing Portage Lake near Three Rivers, Golec caught a golden largemouth bass on a plastic worm, FOX-17 News reports. He was jigging the soft plastic lure on a weed bed when the rare fish ate.
“It jumped out of the water, and all the sudden I see this golden fish,” Golec told reporters. “I was like, ‘What the heck?’”
Golec, who’d never seen or heard of a golden largemouth before, thought the bass was diseased at first. But a quick online search revealed that it was actually a healthy fish with a rare genetic skin condition.
“[I] get on my phone, check it out, and there it is: ‘golden bass,’ one of the rarest fish to be caught.”
The fish’s exact weight is unknown, but it was estimated to be five to six years old, according to FOX-17. Although this falls within the average lifespan of largemouth bass, it’s amazing that the fish survived that long without being eaten by predators.
Golec decided to keep the golden bass and is having it mounted by a taxidermist. The only question now is where he’ll put the mount.
“I told my wife we’re gonna put it in the living room,” Golec said. “And she goes, ‘No, you’re not.’”
What Causes a Bass to Turn Golden?
While rare, golden bass and other brightly hued fish are occasionally caught by anglers across the country. In May 2021, an angler pulled a golden largemouth out of an Arkansas lake, and last July, a bass fisherman caught a neon orange smallmouth from Michigan’s Muskegon River. As recently as four months ago, a bass angler in Virginia landed a golden-hued largemouth bass while practicing for a tournament on the James River. The angler released the golden bass after submitting photos of it to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.
Along with Golec’s recent catch, every one of these bass was affected by a genetic condition known as xanthism (or Xanthochromism), which alters an animal’s skin pigments and causes them to turn bright orange or yellow. Xanthism can also affect other fish species (along with some amphibians, reptiles, and birds).
“Golden largemouth bass are extremely rare, and most anglers have never seen them, let alone heard of them before,” Virginia DWR Aquatic Education Coordinator Alex McCrickard explained in February.