Largemouth Bass


The Black or Largemouth Bass, one of the most highly sought sport fishes in the United States, is caught with live and artificial bait. It is more tolerant of warm water than the Smallmouth Bass, but at higher temperatures it becomes less active. Adults feed primarily on other fishes. The average life span is about 16 years.

Description: To 3’2″ (97 cm); 22 1/4 lbs (10.1 kg). Moderately deep, robust; back olive to dark green, mottled; sides greenish yellow with dark midlateral stripe; head greenish gold. Mouth large, extends beyond posterior edge of eye. 14-15 pectoral soft rays; median fins olive; dorsal fins almost separate, 10 spines, 12-13 soft rays, 3 anal fin spines, 11 soft rays. Lateral line complete, 59-77 scales; 7-9 scale rows above lateral line, 14-17 below; no scales on bases of soft dorsal and anal fins; 24-28 caudal peduncle scale rows.

Identification: Along with growing larger, the largemouth is more rotund and less flattened laterally (side to side) than other members of the sunfish family. The largemouth’s head and back are a bright-green to olive-green. Its sides are lighter green, and the belly is whitish or pale-yellow. The largemouth’s upper jaw extends beyond the back edge of its eye. It has a broad black stripe or a line of broken splotches running along its side from head to tail. In the largemouth, the two sections of the dorsal fin are nearly separate.

Habitat: The largemouth bass lives in suitable warmwater habitat, which is usually a pond or small, weedy lake. It is also found in the shallow backwaters and coves of large lakes and in the sluggish sections of big rivers. Largemouths are almost always associated with aquatic weeds, a soft bottom or stumps and downed logs. They are rarely found over rocks or in depths of more than 20 feet.

Life history: In true sunfish style, the male largemouth fans a circular nest for spawning and aggressively defends the nest site, eggs and young fish. Largemouths spawn in spring and early summer, when water temperatures remain at 60 degrees for about three days. The typical nest is on gravel, sand or even soft mud. It is two to three feet in diameter, about six inches deep, and in one to four feet of water. Largemouths usually spawn within eight feet of a shoreline and keep their nests at least 20 feet apart.
Several largemouth bass females may spawn on one nest, each contributing 2,000 to 7,000 eggs per pound of body weight. Egg hatching takes about 10 days in 65-degree water. The young largemouths stay at the bottom of the nest for about a week, until the yolk sac is absorbed. Then they rise above the nest in a school and begin feeding. The male continues to guard them for as long as a month. Young bass feed on zooplankton, insects and small fishes, and they are cannibalistic on one another.

Frequently, spring lake conditions determine the abundance of these forage items. Thus, the abundance of these forage items also determines the abundance of young largemouth bass. The number of young largemouth bass produced each year varies according to lake conditions and ultimately leads to changes in adult largemouth bass abundance.
Adult largemouths are predators and eat mostly fish and crayfish, but they also take frogs, snakes, and even small mammals and birds, like mice and ducklings that happen onto the water’s surface. Largemouth bass feed day and night.

Attention-attracting, splashy surface plugs, minnowlike lures and soft-plastic worms or other slithery imitations, snaked through the weeds, all appeal to the aggressive largemouth.

Spotted Bass

Description:  Micropterus is Greek meaning “small fin” [see Guadalupe bass for further explanation]. The species epithet punctulatus, Latin for “dotted,” refers to rows of dark spots on the lower sides. Coloration is similar to that of Guadalupe bass, but does not extend as low on the body. Mouth does not extend beyond the eye, as it does with Black (largemouth )bass.

Despite the fact that spotted bass are not nearly so large and numerous as largemouth bass, they are excellent fighters, and easy to catch, even in winter months.

Spotted bass seem to be segregated by habitat type from closely related species. They tend to be found in areas with more current than largemouth bass, and they usually inhabit areas that are too warm, turbid, and sluggish for smallmouth bass. Although a large proportion reach maturity within a year, spotted bass found in spawning areas are usually three to four years old. Rock and gravel are usually chosen as suitable spawning areas at water temperatures of 57-74°F. Nest depths may vary widely. Females may lay between 1,150 and 47,000 eggs. Males guard the eggs during incubation and for up to four weeks after they have hatched. As young fish grow their diet shifts from zooplankton to insects, and finally to fish and crayfish.

Identification: Spotted bass do not grow as large as either the largemouth or smallmouth bass, only to about 18 inches, and most are much smaller. The upper part of the head and back are a light to dark olive-green, its sides are silver-green and it has a whitish belly. There is a series of dark, generally diamond-shaped spots on its sides, above a splotchy dark band that runs from head to tail. Below the band are scales with dark bases that form a pattern of horizontal or small spots. The spots below the lateral band give the fish its common name. Like the smallmouth, the upper jaw in the spotted bass does not extend beyond the eye, and there are dark bands radiating backward from the eye. The eyes are reddish.

Habitat: Spotted bass prefer long, deep, silted pools in sluggish water. They can tolerate water that is more turbid than the water smallmouths prefer. In a stream, they occupy the habitat left vacant by largemouths, which like weedy coves, and smallmouths, which live in the rocky riffles.

Life history: The spotted bass spawns in early summer. Like other sunfish, the males construct the nest and guard the eggs and young fish for a time. The nests are small, not more than 15 inches in diameter. They are made over gravel or a softer bottom on the edges of pools. Young spotted bass eat zooplankton and insects, and then switch to crayfish and fishes as they mature.

Redeye Bass

The Redeye bass, like most members of the Sunfish family (Centrarchidae), is an introduced species to California. It is native to southeastern United States and was first brought to California in the 1960’s. The redeye bass is a weak competitor, so in many of the areas where it was introduced it has not impacted our native fishes. The south fork of the Stanislaus River is one area where the population is thriving. According to McGinnis, an electroshock survey in the area above Fivemile Creek found that 78% of the fish found in this section of the Stanislaus River were redeye bass.

The redeye bass is the smallest species in the bass family, and they also take a very long time to grow. It may take up to 10 years for these fish to reach their maximum length of 1 foot and maximum weight of 8 pounds. The most distinguishing characteristics of the redeye bass is the red eye and reddish-bronze body. They have a large mouth with the upper jaw extending under the eye (this characteristic is also found in smallmouth bass, a species which is often confused with redeye bass).

This species prefers to live in narrow, rocky streams. Occasionally they may be found in pools of medium-sized rivers. Redeye bass are almost exclusively insectivorous, meaning they rarely eat anything other than aquatic insects.

During the breeding season, males create a depression by whipping their tails vigorously. As females swim by the males attempt to make them to lay eggs in the depression. As a result, one nest may contain eggs laid by multiple females. The males continue to guard their nests until after the eggs have been hatched for a few days. This defensive strategy allows for high survival rates of young. 

Smallmouth Bass

Rare in Melones- most people mistake the common Redeye bass for a smallmouth.

One of the most popular sport fishes in eastern North America, this species takes a variety of live bait, minnows, and crayfishes, as well as artificial lures. The Smallmouth Bass spawns earlier than other sunfishes in the same areas.

Description: To 24″ (61 cm); 12 lbs (5.4 kg). Elongate, compressed; back dark olive to brown, sides greenish yellow with bronze reflections, diffuse midlateral bars form dark mottlings. Mouth extends to eye. 16-18 pectoral soft rays; median fins olive; dorsal fins joined, 10 spines, 13-14 soft rays; 3 anal fin spines, 11 soft rays. Lateral line complete, 67-79 scales; 11-13 scale rows above lateral line, 20-23 below; scales on bases of soft dorsal and anal fins; 29-31 caudal peduncle scale rows.

Identification: The robust-looking smallmouth has a brownish or bronze cast to its back. It is lighter on the sides and has a white or pale-yellow belly. There is a goldish sheen to its scales, and smallmouths have a series of eight to 15 olive-colored vertical, broken bars along each side. The end of the upper jaw of a smallmouth does not extend beyond the back edge of the eye. The dorsal fin sections are separated by a shallow notch, not a deep notch as in the largemouth. The smallmouth’s eye is orange-red, and dark lines radiate from the eye backward. In young smallmouths, the vertical side bars are prominent, and the tail fin has three colors: Orange at the base, then a black band, then white to yellow at the tip.

Habitat: Although largemouths and smallmouths may live in the same rivers or lakes, they are found in different habitats. Smallmouths prefer rocky locations, more water depth and heavier current than largemouths. In Pennsylvania, smallmouth bass are found in medium to large streams and clear, deep lakes and reservoirs with a summer water temperature between 60 and 80 degrees. In lakes, they hang around downed logs, stumps, stone rubble and rock outcrops, and along the steep sides of submerged creek channels. They prefer streams with riffles flowing over gravel or boulders, where they are found in the pools, pockets behind rocks, or in the deeper moving water.

Life history: Smallmouth bass spawn in spring, May to early June, when water temperatures reach 60 to 70 degrees. The male builds the nest. The male fans a circular depression in gravel or sand with his fins. The nest is 14 to 30 inches in diameter and usually in three or four feet of water, although it may be more than 20 feet deep in clear water. Smallmouths in lakes often move into tributary streams to spawn. Several females spawn on the same nest, adding 2,000 to 7,000 eggs per pound of body weight. Because the females spawn at different times, the eggs the male is guarding do not all hatch at the same time. Depending on water temperature, the eggs hatch in two to nine days. The young fish are ready to leave the nest five or six days after that.
In rivers and streams, flow and temperature can affect the survival of young smallmouth bass. High flows can sweep eggs and fry downriver, where they may perish. Conversely, moderate flows may lead to high fry survival. These early season events frequently lead to low or high densities of adult smallmouth bass.

Young smallmouths eat tiny crustaceans. Then they graduate to insect larvae, crayfish and fish. Smallmouths may reach 20 inches or more in length. The Pennsylvania smallmouth angling record is over seven pounds.