Tennessee Angler Catches ‘Extremely Rare’ Black Gar on the French Broad: PHOTO

by Amy Myers
Photo by: David Underwood/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A man from Louisiana came for a visit to East Tennessee and left with one heck of a souvenir. While fishing on the French Broad River, Greg Ursin Jr. caught a rare black gar.

At the time of the one-in-a-lifetime fish, Ursin was on the water with a guide from Smoky Mountain Fishing Co. Once the Louisiana angler reeled in his incredible catch, they realized just how special the moment was – they had a melanistic gar dangling from their lure.

Melanistic fish are much like albino ones, as they both have a genetic mutation that affects their coloring. While albino fish lack color, though, melanistic fish are all black with no other colorations. Typically, Tennessee gar range from silver to gunmetal gray with black spots along their scales. Needless to say, it was pretty evident to Ursin that his fish was a rarity.

Not surprisingly, when the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency found out about the catch, they had to celebrate the aquatic animal and the man behind the catch. On Facebook, the agency announced Ursin and Captain Derek’s catch and included a photo of the beauty, too.

“Realizing that the fish was unusual, [Ursin] sent the photo to TWRA Fisheries Biologist John Hammonds who says it appears to be a melanistic Longnose gar,” the department shared in the post.

In the photo, the angler showed off the long-nosed black gar with equally dark eyes. In the background, you can see the mist rise across the French Broad River on a classic East Tennessee fall day.

The TWRA did not state whether Ursin kept the black gar or released it back into the French Broad.

Tennessee Wildlife Experts Say Black Coloring on Gar Fish Is Not Harmful to Its Survival

Even though melanism is a genetic deformity, it doesn’t pose any direct threats to the fish, itself. In fact, the TWRA even stressed that albinism, melanism and leucism are all fairly harmless to the gar.

“Occasionally fish of about any species will have this deformity, but melanism is more rare than other odd color fish traits like leucism,” the department explained. “Leucism is the lack of certain pigments so the fish appears a very light color like off white, yellow, or maybe orange. Either deformity is not known to be harmful to the fish, but a lot of times it makes the individual stand out and they become prey when they are very young so they are rarely seen.”

Of the three, melanism is likely the most beneficial mutation to have, as black gar have a better chance of blending into their surroundings. Contrastly, leucism and albinism may make the fish stand out among its underwater environment, as the TWRA stated, which is why the few that there are fall victim to a larger predator.