Game Fishing > Freshwater Fish > Black Bass fish

Black Bass fish

Black Bass fishThe black bass enjoys, without doubt, the widest popularity of all the game fish of North America. The trout are known to a much smaller number of people for the reason that bass are abundant in the most densely populated portions of the United States, while the human neighbors of the trout are comparatively few. There are two species so very much alike that there is practically but one point of difference the size of the mouth and their habits are identical.

The small­mouthed black bass is a fish of the East and North from western New Hampshire to Manitoba and southward to South Carolina and the northern Gulf States to Arkansas. The large-mouthed black bass ranges from Manitoba southward to the Gulf States and spreads through the latter to Texas and Florida. It abounds in all the rivers of the Southern States. So widely have both species been distributed that it is difficult to mention a section of North America where this brace of splendid game fish may not be found abundant.

Its popularity may be inferred by the remarkable number and variety of names it goes under. The large-mouthed is known in the Lake region as the "Oswego bass," in Kentucky it is called "jumper," in Indiana "moss bass," in the Southern States "trout," though in North Carolina it is called "chub," in Alabama "mountain trout." Many other names are applied to one or both species. One of the pet names among anglers is "bronze-backer." Both species are born fighters on the line, as well as in the water, among their own and other kinds. For its size, it is the most active leaper, barring the ouananiche, of all our game fish.

In form and color it is about the ugliest game fish, the caudal, rear dorsal, and anal fins being out of proportion to what otherwise would be a shapely form; nevertheless, the black bass fills a most important space in the angler's sport, for if you hook even a two-pound bass in a running stream, you are at once aware you have engaged a fish and a jolly "kicker" at that. Just as soon as it feels the barb, out of the water it shoots, giving the rod, reel, and angler such a lively time that one cannot but admire its pluck even unto the moment you rap it on the head.

Even in quiet lakes, its leaps and surges are admirable, where otherwise most trout are tame. Yet, with all this, in fishing streams where both are common, when I hook a bass I always regret it is not a trout. Some writers have made a sort of demi-god of the bass; but few anglers who have opportunities to fish for salmon both sea and landlocked, as well as trout, even brook trout will leave them for the bass. The reason, I suppose, is that bass are not always willing to take a fly, and one is more sure to get them on live bait.

The ordinary size of an adult fish is two to three pounds, though specimens have been taken up to eight pounds. In Florida, the large-mouthed grows larger. Eight-pounders are not unusual in the St. Johns River; specimens have been recorded up to twenty pounds, caught in the lake at Gainesville, Florida. The bass do not seem to depend closely on temperature. Having no opportunity of avoiding the cold, they sink to deeper parts of their watery domain at the approach of winter, and if the chill penetrates to their retreat, their vitality is diminished, their blood flows more slowly, they feel no need of food, and forthwith enter into a state of hibernation.

In deep lakes they sink beneath, below the reach of surface chills, and are sometimes caught with a hook through the ice. In the South their activity never ceases. Any one who has seen black bass feeding, must have been impressed with their immense power of movement. They soon become masters of the waters in which they are placed; sunfish, chub, dace, trout, young salmon, and even the ravenous pickerel, are devoured, as are also the young of their own kind. They feed at the surface on moths, flies, and frogs; they turn over stones in search of craw­fish and insect larvae. In their stomachs have been found mice, young rats, snakes, and small aquatic birds. With such a varied menu, it is no wonder that the angler finds them at the proper season equally eager for fly-hook, trolling spoon, or live bait, and ever ready for a struggle which puts the rod and line to a severe test.

They are fished for at night, as well as day, so that it may be assumed they are always feeding, the early morning hours being considered (next to late evening) the best time for angling. They are active, roving, merry fish, continually rising from the bottom to the surface, at times rising above it pure wanton play.

The small-mouthed bass thrive in comparatively clear, cool, and rocky or gravelly streams, and in lakes or ponds supplied by such streams or having cold bottom springs. In lakes of the latter character, it coexists with large­mouthed bass in many instances. In such cases, the small-mouthed will be found usually at the inlet, or about springs, and the large-mouthed at the outlet or in sheltered, grassy situations. One of the features of the bass is its domestic habits. Habits The male and female pair off and together they form a nest on the bottom of gravel or coarse sand, in very rocky streams, on a flat rock. The male fish does the work of preparation by scouring with fins and tail a space about twice his length in diameter, forming a shallow, saucer-shaped depression, in which the female deposits her eggs, which are fertilized by the male, who hovers near by. The nest is carefully guarded from intruders by the parents until the eggs hatch the period of incubation being from one to two weeks, according to the temperature of the water. The fry are then watched and brooded by the male fish for a week or so, when the young seek the shelter of weeds and grasses in shallow water. Probably fifty per cent of the young are later devoured by adult fish. Many are the methods pursued in its capture, trolling with artifical lures, and with live bait, casting with the fly, and with bait, bobb­ing, skittering, and still fishing all are the same to its hungry and everready maw.

Another species similar in appearance is the rock bass, or red eye, also the warmouth, the calico or strawberry bass, and the crappie, all found in the same waters as the black bass; but they are of little or no importance to the angler in comparison. The warmouth (called a perch in some localities) for its size is a gamy fish, so is the rock bass; both the latter rising to the fly, at times, but so do many of the common fishes, not game, to be treated in a separate chapter under that name.