SURRY, Va. – A Virginia fisherman thought he had hooked a saltwater fish in the James River at first glance, but what he would later find out would be an extremely rare find.
Jacob Moore was surprised late last year when he reeled in a golden largemouth bass, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources said.
When not out on the water, Moore works as an arborist and said he likes to participate in local fishing tournaments. He was out practicing for an upcoming tournament by targeting largemouths on the lower James River near Chippokes State Park.
"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," he said. "I haven’t seen anything like that before. I’ve seen bass with black spots, but I’d never seen an albino one."
Virginia DWR Aquatic Education Coordinator Alex McCrickard said golden largemouth bass are extremely rare.
"Most anglers have never seen them, let alone heard of them before," he said.
According to wildlife officials, the fish is a product of a genetic mutation that alters the skin pigments called xanthism.
"Yellow pigmentation dominates in xanthism, as you can see in Moore’s golden largemouth," McCrickard said.
Moore said he measured the fish at 16 ½ inches. After taking a few photos to remember the tale, he returned it safely back into the river.