(WJHL) — A fisherman visiting East Tennessee from Louisiana landed a once-in-a-lifetime fish while on the French Broad River.
According to a post from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), Greg Ursin Jr. was fishing on the river with a captain from the Smoky Mountain Fishing Co. when he hooked a gar. This particular gar stood out, seeing as it was all black.
A photo of the fish was sent to TWRA Fisheries Biologist John Hammonds, who identified it as a melanistic longnose gar.
Essentially, the gar is the opposite of an albino. While the TWRA reports that pigmentation mutations can occur in most species of fish, this all-black deformity is especially rare.
Ursin told News 2’s sister station, WJHL, that he originally had no plans to cast at the gar after spotting it and couldn’t tell it was black at first.
After his guide told him to go ahead and try, Ursin said the fish was on in moments.
Ursin said he’d never seen a black gar before, nor had his guide. After taking a picture, Ursin released the fish back into the river.
The deformity is not believed to be harmful to the fish, but the TWRA states it can make the fish stand out and potentially become prey.
The TWRA’s Angler’s Guide to Tennessee describes longnose gar as a predatory fish that typically prefers warmer waters and preys on other fish like sunfish, shad, minnows, catfish and carp. They can be found throughout the state except in the highest elevations of East Tennessee. While the average longnose gar is about 20 inches long, they can grow up to 36 inches, and the state record weighed 38 pounds and three ounces.