Josh Rogers never had a doubt he had caught a largemouth bass during a late May evening at Beaver Lake. But when he saw its golden coloring he wondered what might be up with the fish.
“I had two thoughts when I caught it,” he said. “The mid-lake area on down is uncharacteristically muddy now, and I know that bass get light-colored when they are in the mud. But when I looked at the mouth and gills, I wondered if he was sick. My buddy I was fishing with said, ‘Surely it’s not something he’s eating that would turn him that color.’ “
The pair took photos, figuring someone could pinpoint the reason for the fish’s golden tint, and then returned the bass to the water.
“I didn’t think anything about it for an hour and a half of fishing,” Rogers said. “Then I started sending pictures to friends and putting it on Instagram and Facebook, and from the reaction of everybody, I started thinking, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have thrown it back.’ I was surprised it caused such a reaction from people.”
Rogers’ catch, in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologist Jon Stein’s words, was like hitting the Powerball jackpot, only without the cash payout.
“Josh needs to buy a lottery ticket, because he caught one fish in a million,” Stein said.
Stein said the gold-colored largemouth bass is a genetic anomaly.
“The unusual bass has what is known as Xanthochromism, which is the loss of darker pigment with the pigmentation replaced with yellow,” he said. “This is very rare and does occur naturally.”
Although he caught and released this rarity, he said he is having a replica made with help from the photographs.
“I’d never heard of one like this before seeing one,” Rogers said.
Rogers caught the fish on a swim jig. Though the overall fishing that evening was slow and required some work, Rogers said, together he and his friend ended up catching about 15 fish, but nothing like the first one of the day.
“I flipped him into the boat and said, ‘What in the world?’ “ said Rogers, who fishes Beaver Lake regularly.
He said the fish was 16 inches long and, post-spawn, would run about 2 pounds.