Angler Lands Extremely Rare Golden Smallmouth in Michigan

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One could say that October 2022 is the month when anglers “struck gold.”

Puns aside, a Missouri angler practically broke the internet last week after landing a sparkling gold crappie on a private pond.

On October 9, David Holston joined in on the rare fish action when he landed his own “golden” catch in southeast Michigan.

Landing a Statistically Impossible Fish

Golden Smallmouth Bass
Photo via David Holston

Holston, like angler Josh Chrenko earlier this year, hauled in what fish biologists consider a “one-in-a-million” smallmouth. At 2.11 pounds, Holston’s smallmouth was a mature fish with some age on it. Given that its coloration makes it a prime target for predator fish, the likelihood of it reaching this size is nearly impossible.

While fishing from a 10-foot Jon boat with girlfriend Ellyn Lamerato, Holston recalls that the pair had landed a couple decent smallmouth but, for the most part, the trip was fairly commonplace at first.

“We were using wacky rigs – 4-inch Yamamoto Senkos. The smallmouth go crazy for them here,” Holston, who is no stranger to catching smallmouth, states.

Holston notes that at first, his golden smallie fought like a normal smallmouth. The hit came in shallow water (about two feet). As the fish got closer to the boat, however, he realized that he might be dealing with something special.

“I saw the golden flash a few feet from the boat,” Holston states. “It looked like a gold bar under the water. It was wild”

Lamerato commented on the coloration, suggesting Holtson may have connected with a koi or some species of carp. Holston’s mind immediately went elsewhere, however.

“I thought about Josh’s (Chrenko’s) fish — thought there’s no way.” While Holston’s rationalism told him he could not have hooked up with the same fish Chrenko landed nearly four hours away in July, it was becoming clear that he was about to experience the catch of a lifetime.

After retrieving the fish, Holston and Lamerato “hightailed it” to shore and snapped a few photos before releasing the healthy fish safely back into its natural waters. The release was quick, but Holston admits he was more concerned with keeping the fish healthy than documenting the experience.

“Thinking back, I wish I would have handled the fish a bit more, but I was so in awe, and I didn’t want anything to happen to the fish,” he shares. “Half of me is happy about that, but the other half wishes I would have got more pictures and videos.”

Like many anglers who experience this type of rarity in real-time, Holston is thankful for the experience but also wishes there was more to savor the moment

“I didn’t have measuring tape, which hurts me to admit, but just from looks, it might be the biggest (xanthic) I’ve seen,” Holston notes.

Looking ahead, Holston, who also caught his first king salmon earlier this year, has one specific species on his “bucket list” to land next: a muskie!

Why is This Smallmouth Bass Golden?

Within the fishing community, the term xanthochromism may end up becoming the phrase of the year – either that or lead weights.

Numerous anglers have posted photos to social media documenting their oddly-colored catches this year. Whether the fish was a crappie or a smallmouth, “xanthism” has become a fascination.

What is xanthochromism and what animals does it affect?

Xanthochromism is a genetic abnormally affecting numerous fish and bird species. The condition often involves a reduction in natural red and brown pigmentations which is replaced with “unusually high” levels of yellow pigmentation. As is the case with many xanthic smallmouth, the coloration may appear orange.

Holston mentioned that the coloration of the smallmouth’s eyes perhaps stood out to him more than any other feature. He notes that unlike most smallmouth, who have the “quintessential red eyes,” his xanthic’s were a blend of orange and yellow – a feature that seems to align with the genetic characteristics of xanthochromism.

Rare Gold Smallmouth Bass
Photo via Josh Chrenko

What is interesting, however, is the fact that Chrenko’s July catch (above) had eyes that were quite typical of non-xanthic smallmouth.

Xanthochromism has been considered a byproduct of a fish’ diet, so it is interesting to consider that Holston, Chrenko, and others have caught these extremely rare fish in a similar geographic region.

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