Zach Baker, of Maysville, caught a unique golden-colored rainbow trout while fishing a public stream in north Georgia.
The fish is likely the product of hatchery-raised strain, known as West Virginia golden trout, that was first developed in the 1950s. The color mutation of a regular rainbow trout was developed using selective breeding at Petersburg Trout Hatchery in West Virginia. Georgia DNR doesn’t stock these golden rainbows, so they are uncommon on public stretches of Georgia trout water.
Zach is 26 years old and has been fishing for 17 years but has never caught a rainbow trout that was colored like this one.
“I saw a golden-colored trout three weeks prior to catching this one,” said Zach. “I immediately knew I wanted to land a fish of that color.”
Zach fished the stretch of public water in north Georgia (which he did not want to name) about once a week since he saw the trout. On the morning of Feb. 22, he was running a little late but was still determined to get out there.
“I got to my spot at 7:30, and I had high hopes the fish were going to bite,” said Zach.
Zach started fishing an area that was deep but had rapids.
“I started throwing a Rapala crankbait,” said Zach. “I had a lot of followers, but nothing would commit.”
After having several followers, Zach decided to change it up and try something different. Berkley PowerBait in salmon peach is a go-to bait for Zach when nothing else is working.
“I made one cast, and I felt a bite,” said Zach.
The fish struck out downstream and was putting up a good fight. Zach fought the fish for three minutes before netting and landing it.
“When I landed this fish, I was truly amazed,” said Zach. “I had caught the golden-colored trout I had been after for three weeks. I immediately put a stringer in it. True excitement!”
Zach currently has three trout at the taxidermist that are all heavier than 5 pounds.
“I have caught a lot of big trout,” said Zach. “But this trout will be the most memorable. The golden trout was 17 inches and 2 pounds. This was a true adrenaline rush.”
After speaking with Pat Markey, the WRD Hatchery Manager at Buford Hatchery, he suggested the trout was likely stocked on a private stretch of the stream and washed down to the public stretch.
A landowner with private waters can stock trout in their stretch of the river, but they must have a DNR permit to do so. The golden-colored trout that Zach caught was not the “golden trout” that is found in several streams in California.
“Every once in a while we would come across an albino or ‘leucistic’ rainbow trout,” said Pat.
Albino trout have pink eyes, but in this case, Zach’s trout has a dark iris.
“Nonetheless, the Georgia DNR does not stock these type of fish,” Pat said. “My guess is that this particular fish has been planted by an unknown source. Based on that photo I’d say it looks like a leucistic rainbow trout. Leusium is different from albinium in that there is not a complete loss of pigment, especially in the eyes.”
There is no doubt this unique golden rainbow trout was a true trophy and will be the most memorable for Zach.