Muskegon produces orange smallie

17 Orange
Josh Chrenko admires the orange smallie he caught on the Muskegon River. (Photo courtesy of Josh Chrenko)

Lake Orion, Mich. — Josh Chrenko said he was “pretty shocked” when he first saw the orange smallmouth bass that hit his buzzbait. And that’s coming from a self-proclaimed “smallmouth nut.”

Chrenko, a 37-year-old business owner from Greenwood, Ind., was fishing on the Muskegon River July 6 when he caught what turned out to be a very rare smallmouth bass.

He was fishing his topwater lure around 6:30 a.m. when the once-in-a lifetime fish hit.

“The Muskegon is one of my favorite rivers to fish,” Chrenko told Michigan Outdoor News. “Not a lot of people fish it for smallmouths and they just love buzzbaits there. You get some nice lake-run fish, too.

“I could see it (was gold) right away when it hit the topwater and I thought, ‘What in the world is this.’”

Chrenko snapped a couple of pictures and quickly returned his unique catch to the river.

“I put it on the board real fast and it was about 13.5 inches,” Chrenko said.

He showed the pics around to his fishing buddies, then contacted friend and business partner Andrew Reuter, an ecologist with the Indiana DNR.

“Andrew identified it as xanthism, a genetic mutation that turns pigments in the skin yellow,” Chrenko said. “Traditionally smallmouths are brown so when the yellow pigment mixed in it turned the skin orange.”

A life-long fisherman,  Chrenko says he exclusively fishes for smallmouth bass.

“I travel around a lot and fish for smallmouths. I’m kind of a smallmouth nut,” he said.

When he’s not fishing he’s running a podcast about smallmouths called Smallie Talk on Apple Podcasts, or working his retail business called Achigan (the Algonquin word for smallmouth), which sells hats, shirts, and other novelties all devoted to his love for smallmouth bass. His website is

“It really means a lot to me to catch such a rare fish,” Chrenko said. “Some people may have caught that fish and not realized how special it was.”

Reuter told him the birth rate for such a fish is about one in 10,000 and the chance of it surviving the three or four years it takes to reach 13-plus inches was “nearly incalculable.”

Chrenko said his family had rented a cabin on the Muskegon to fish for smallmouth bass.

“We tore them up,” he said. “We caught a lot of nice ones. I caught a 20-incher later that morning.”

Categories: Bass, News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *