Man catches rare golden fish whose unusual color is caused by a mutation

A Minnesota fisherman has caught a sunfish with a rare genetic mutation that turns its skin golden.

Terry Nelson was fishing for sunfish and crappie on Lindstrom Lake in Chisago County when he caught the completely golden fish on Dec. 30, 2021, he said Newsweek.

Nelson was fishing in about 12 feet of water and using waxworms as bait. When he first saw the creature, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I was like, ‘What is this? I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Nelson said. Newsweek.

“Then I thought it must be a sunfish, but [I’d] never seen one like this before and i have fished all my life everywhere. It was a first for me.”

Sunfish are a family of ray-finned freshwater fish, known scientifically as Centrarchidae. The group contains over 30 species, including popular North American sport fish such as European bass, bluegill, and crappie.

The term “sunfish” is also used to refer to a genus (group of species) within this family called Lepomiswhich includes bluegill sunfish.

Nelson took a picture of the fish and released it back into the lake. He then contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, who told him it was a “very rare” golden sunfish, most likely a bluegill sunfish. The golden color is the result of a pigment mutation.

Loren Miller, fish geneticist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, confirmed Newsweek that the fish was most likely a bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and “definitely” a sunfish of the genus Lepomis.

“It’s hard to be certain because normal color patterns help tell species apart, and sunfish species usually hybridize, so even normally colored fish hybrids are hard to tell apart,” she said. declared.

Bluegill Sunfish is a small game fish that is characterized by having a dark blue flap on the back of its gill cover. Bluegill sunfish’s body color varies widely. It can be bluish or greenish, but shades of brown, orange, and pink can also be found. The sides of the fish often have several dark vertical bars.

The fish Nelson caught, however, had no markings and was entirely golden in color – which Miller attributes to “xanthine mutation, or xanthochromism”. It is a condition similar to albinism, but involves different pigment genes.

“Dark pigments are removed, leaving yellows even more accentuated. This type of pigment mutation affects many species of fish, as well as amphibians and reptiles,” she explained.

“It appears to be a recessive mutation, meaning that two ‘normal’ carrier parents mate and produce dual recessive mutants.”

This isn’t the only fish with xanthochromism caught recently in Minnesota. In February, Rick Konakowitz caught a completely golden crappie while ice fishing on Clear Lake.

The golden sunfish with xanthochromism caught by Terry Nelson at Lake Lindstrom, Minnesota on December 30, 2021.
Terry Nelson


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