Largemouth bass have a reputation for being unfussy eaters: when minnows and other baitfish are scarce, these freshwater "trash compactors" will scarf anything from insects to frogs and small birds. This scavenged meal, however, was odd enough to surprise even an experienced fisherman.

Mole in one!

Image: Monroe Taylor C. Mackinney/Caters News

While this definitely ranks among the strangest snapshots we've seen – and has racked up its share of Photoshop tampering accusations in the past few days – the image is real.

The bass was caught by Missouri resident Monroe Mackinney at the end of a recent fishing trip on his parents' eight-acre pond. And it was only when Mackinney tried to remove the hook that he noticed the fish's furry internal stowaway.

"It scared me a little!" he wrote on Instagram. "I went to take my lure out and almost dropped the fish. I thought [the mole] was a turtle."

It might appear as if the digger was attempting to burrow its way out of the bass, but it's highly unlikely that the fish consumed this meal alive. Moles can swim (video below), but a more probable scenario is that heavy rains in the area washed the mammal into the water, where it drowned before being eaten. 

"Or a big bird like a hawk, great blue heron, or an eagle (which are all common in Missouri) dropped it in the water," added Mackinney. "The mole looked pretty fresh ... within the last couple of days or so."

Image: Monroe Taylor C. Mackinney/Caters News

After snapping a few photos, Mackinney removed the mole and sent the bass on its way – a move that has earned him some mixed reactions online. We certainly wouldn't recommend extracting an animal's meal in this way without proper training. Still, the bass's unusual snack choice could have landed the animal in some trouble.

As we've discussed before, fish can't "choke" in the same way humans do because their throats aren't involved in the breathing process. However, large prey can sometimes prevent oxygenated water from moving past the gills when swallowed, causing death by asphyxiation. We saw that unfortunate scenario play out when a lemon shark mistakenly munched a porcupinefish in the Maldives.

"[Removing the mole] was an easy decision," said Mackinney. "The mole was dead, but the bass swam off just fine!"

After spotting the bizarre photos on Mackinney's page, amateur fisherman Chris Hayton chimed in with a similar two-for-one fishing encounter.

"I've witnessed a bass swallow a bat that landed on top of the water accidentally chasing mosquitos," he said. 



Top header image: Mick Talbot/Flickr