Game Fishing > Sunfish Family, Centrarchidae > Rock-Bass


Rock-BassIn the same family with the black-bass are a number of other sunfishes that will next be considered, merely as a matter of sequence, and not on account of their importance as game-fishes. The rock-bass was first described by the French naturalist, Rafinesque, in 1817, while travelling in America. His specimens were from New York and Vermont, which he named rupestris, "living among rocks." In the Northern states it is generally known as the rock-bass, but in Kentucky and other states of the Middle West it is called red-eye, goggle-eye, etc.

Its original habitat was from Canada and Lake Champlain southward along the Mississippi Valley to Louisiana and Texas, but its range has been extended to many other states east and west by transplantation. In its general appearance it resembles somewhat the black-bass, but it is a deeper fish and is more compressed. Its dorsal and anal fins are comparatively larger and stronger. It has a large eye and a capacious mouth well filled with small teeth, some on the roof of the mouth being rather sharp.

The color is of various shades of olive-green, with brassy or coppery reflection, more or less mottled with black, forming broken and indistinct lines along the sides. The iris of the eye is scarlet, hence "red-eye"; there is a black spot on the angle of the gill-cover and dark mottlings on the soft dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. It prefers clear streams and lakes, and congregates in small schools about rocky situations, gravelly bars, about mill-dams, and in the vicinity of weed patches in ponds.

It spawns in the spring and early summer, making and guarding its nest like the black­bass, and feeds on crawfish, small minnows, and insect larvae.

In size it usually runs from a half­pound to a pound in streams, though reaching two pounds or more in lakes. It is a good pan­fish for the table, and is well thought of in the Mississippi Valley, though held in lighter esteem in the St. Lawrence basin, where it coexists with larger and better fishes.

The rock-bass is an attractive-looking fish, and for its size is very pugnacious. It will take the artificial fly, or natural or artificial bait. It bites freely at small minnows, grubs, grasshoppers, cut­bait, or angle-worms. It is capable of affording considerable sport with light tackle, owing to its large and strong fins, and its habit of curling its sides in opposition to the strain of the rod.

With a light fly-rod of four or five ounces, and corresponding tackle, and trout flies on hooks number 5 to 7, the rock-bass is not a mean adversary. It rises to the various hackles, and to such flies as coachman, brown drake, gray drake, and stone fly, especially toward evening. The flies must be allowed to sink with every cast after fluttering them awhile on the surface.

For bait­fishing a trout bait-rod of the weight just mentioned, with a reel of small caliber and the smallest braided silk line, will be about right. Sproat hooks number 3 to 4 on light gut snells tied with red silk are the best. Live minnows about two inches long, carefully hooked through the lips, are to be lightly cast and allowed to sink nearly to the bottom and slowly reeled in again. Or if a float is used, the minnow may be hooked just under the dorsal fin. A small float is necessary when white grubs, crawfish, cut-bait, or worms are used as bait.

On lakes it is readily taken by trolling with a very small spoon, about the size of a nickel, with a single Sproat or O'Shaughnessy hook number 1 attached.

A rod nine or ten feet long cut from the small end of a native cane pole, weighing but a few ounces, with a line of sea-grass or raw silk about the length of the rod, will answer very well for bait-fishing. This is the tackle mostly used by boys in the Middle West, and it might be profitably employed by boys of larger growth. A dozen "red-eyes," gleaming with green and gold, on the string of the boy angler, is something to be proud of. He gazes with fond admiration on the wide-open crimson eyes, which to him seem more precious than rubies. He admires the bristling fins, the gracefully sloping sides, the gaping mouth and forked tail, with boyish enthusiasm and appreciation.