Does Orange Bass Exist?

There are cases of anglers catching rare orange bass around the United States. Here's why the fish have that distinct color.

Does Orange Bass Exist?
Does Orange Bass Exist?
Team Guidesly

November 7, 2022, 4 min read

Updated on November 3, 2022

Does Orange Bass Exist?
Team Guidesly

November 7, 2022, 4 min read

Updated on November 3, 2022

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There have been a few recent reports of anglers catching extremely rare bright orange bass in Michigan and Florida. Avid anglers, especially bass fishing enthusiasts, are scratching their heads and asking, does orange bass exist? Is it a new fish species, or is it just a rare occurrence of an existing bass species? Let’s delve into this exciting phenomenon and why it happens.

Anglers’ Accounts of Catching Orange Bass

Muskegon River

Indiana bass angler Josh Chrenko recorded and posted a video on Facebook documenting what he had caught while fishing in Michigan. He showcased an orange smallmouth bass that he described as not just orange but an unusual neon goldfish orange. Chrenko traveled from Indiana to the Muskegon River in Michigan, where he hooked and reeled the rare fish in July this year. He said in the video that he didn’t even know that orange smallmouth bass existed. Chrenko shared that the catch was special because he dedicated his love for fishing to targeting smallmouth bass, chasing them from Minnesota to Virginia

Chrenko eventually talked to an Indiana ecologist to ask why the bass was orange. The expert told him that the fish’s color means it has a condition called Xanthochromism or Xanthism, which causes the pigmentation of the fish to become ‘unusually yellow.’ According to a fish biologist, the chance of a fish being born with Xanthochromism is about 1 in 10,000. Chrenko noted how tough it would be to survive as a freshwater fish with that condition when the habitat is mostly earth tones, and the odds of predators spotting you would be too easy. He was impressed that the smallie could grow to 13.5 inches and survive predation for so long. Chrenko posted a second video showing him returning the orange bass into the river.

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Jay Wesley, the Lake Michigan basin coordinator of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division, said the condition was rare. Still, it has been witnessed in the Muskegon River in the past. In the case of the smallmouth bass having a golden orange coloration, its usual red hues have been replaced by yellow hues. According to Wesley, birds, reptiles, and amphibians can also have Xanthism. He notes the last reported orange smallmouth bass was also caught from the Muskegon River in 2018. 

Another instance of a bass angler catching the rare orange bass striation happened in Florida. Jeff Puckett caught a brilliant orange largemouth bass from Fox Lake in Titusville, Florida. His great catch was recently featured on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Facebook page. The research institute also explained that the bizarre coloration results from Xanthism. To put the genetic anomaly into perspective, the research institute’s Freshwater Fisheries Research Long-Term Monitoring Program has sampled 255,632 largemouth bass from 175 different water bodies over ten years and hasn’t found reported sightings of the genetic phenomenon, showcasing its rarity. The only record of an orange bass caught in Florida is 30 years old. Earlier this year, another golden largemouth bass was landed during a tournament in Lake Ontario in Canada.

Other Reasons Why Black Bass Species Turn Orange

We’ve concluded that orange bass exist because of a rare genetic condition, but there are other possible reasons why some fish have orange and yellowish hues. Some bass strains already have yellow colorings, like striped bass, spotted bass, peacock bass, sea bass, and other species. But what’s surprising anglers is finding freshwater bass with those bright hues. It may be a result of what the fish eat; some bright-colored crayfish and baitfish inhale colored mud when they feed at the bottom of lakes, which might affect their pigmentation. It is said that an Omega 3-rich diet can also affect their color.

It could also be possible that the fish is that color because it’s a mix of different bass species, like peacock bass and a Florida-strain bass which are often orange around the mouth. Some anglers also notice that black bass get yellow highlights as winter approaches. 

Book Bass Fishing Charters in North America

Bass is one of the most popular targets for tournament and sport fishing tours in the United States. Book bass fishing charters found all over the country to experience incredible adventures catching these fish in any state. If you want to partake in some of the best bass fishing in Florida, book with Fish Maniac Bass Charters in Fellsmere. Texas fishing charters like Lake Fork Bass Fishing with Eddie will help you catch bass in Dallas. Illinois fishing charters like the Illinois Bass Fishing Guide Service will let you chase bass in your choice of a freshwater body in Illinois and Wisconsin. You can also head to Georgia and hire striped bass fishing charters like Reel N Time Fishing Charters to target striped bass in one of the state’s biggest lakes.

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