2022 may be known across the fishing industry for many reasons.
Some reasons are better than others. After a recent Central States catch, however, we may look back at 2022 as being the year of the “golden fish!”
On Wednesday, October 5, the Missouri Department of Conservation posted on Facebook that an extremely rare fish can been caught within the state’s waters.
The post notes that angler Holly Haddan was fishing on a private pond in Webster County (located in southwest Missouri). Holly landed a “golden” crappie while fishing, experiencing a phenomenon first-hand that only a handful of outdoor enthusiasts ever will.
This summer, angler Josh Chrenko caught a “golden” smallmouth bass while fishing Muskegon River in Michigan.
Now, rest assured that there isn’t wrong with the water (or the fish) and this gilded appearance is entirely natural, albeit atypical.
So, what makes these fish “golden?”
The answer is a rare genetic condition known as xanthochromism (or xanthism, for short).
This condition occurs rarely in nature. A fish biologist informed Chrenko that his golden smallmouth had roughly a 1-in-10,000 chance of even being born with the condition. Surviving to maturity with this aberrant condition is even less likely considering the fish’ coloration will stand out to predators.
Many anglers struggle to tell the difference between white crappie and black crappie, but the distinctions between the species have little to do with coloration. Black crappie (Pomoxis annularis) and white crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) are two distinct species separated by physical characteristics including pattern markings and number of dorsal fins.
That said, any xanthic crappie is either a white, black, or hybrid crappie carrying the xanthochromism condition. There is no distinct species known as “golden crappie.”
It is also worth noting that xanthochromism does not affect all fish equally. If you notice in the photo above, Chrenko’s summer smallmouth carries an almost orange hue while Haddan’s is more yellow.