Florida Angler Lands Psychedelic Orange Bass

bass orange

It must have really been a trip for an angler in Titusville, Florida earlier this summer when he reeled in a largemouth bass to discover it was a screaming orange color.

It’s possible that fisherman Jeff Pucket took stock of what he had been eating (or smoking) that day. Sure enough, the fish he held in his hands was as orange as the sunset.

“Largemouth Bass usually aren’t orange, but in rare cases an angler will find something truly incredible on the end of a fishing line,” researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote on its Facebook page.

Such bass are incredibly rare, and of course actually catching one is even more so. Researchers have only seen one other such fish in Florida, and that was back in the 1980’s.

But what makes them turn such an insane color? We know flamingos turn pink from the shrimp in their diet, but would this account for the trippy bass? Actually, researchers believe the orange comes from a genetic anomaly known as xanthism. This condition is a lot like albinism, except the pigment mutations create vivid yellows or oranges. The condition is most common in birds, and in fact parrots and other exotic birds are bred for this trait.

Fish, however, are virtually never seen to exhibit the orange color.  A Freshwater Fisheries Research Long-Term Monitoring Program has sampled more than 250,000 Largemouth Bass largemouth bass from 175 different water bodies over a decade zero reported sightings of such fish.  

“In fact,” researchers wrote, “the only sighting our freshwater fisheries researchers have of these orange bass is one photo from an electrofishing trip nearly 30 years ago.”

Photo credit: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute