- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus)
The smallmouth bass has a thick but elongated body, red eyes, and a broad and slightly forked tail. Its pelvic fins are situated near the front of the body below the pectoral fins. A single spine is found on each pelvic fin and on the front of the anal fin. The two dorsal fins are merged with the front one spiny and the second one featuring one spine followed by several soft rays.
Coloring will vary from brown and golden brown to olive green on the back, which fades to gold on the sides and white on the belly, although the dominant colors will often extend all the way down the belly. Young smallmouth have more distinct vertical bars or rows of spots on their sides, and the tail fin is often orange at the base with black and white outer edges.
The smallmouth is easily distinguished from its cousin, the largemouth, by its jaw bone, which extends to about the middle of the eye. The largemouths jaw will extend well beyond the eye. The coloration is also different, as smallmouth are more brownish in color, while the largemouth is predominantly green.
Smallmouth bass are native to only North America, their original habitat ranging from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River drainages in Canada south to northern Georgia, west to eastern Oklahoma, and north to Minnesota. It has since been widely introduced to waters within and beyond that range, across southern Canada west to British Columbia and east to the Maritimes, west to the Pacific coast states, and into the southwestern United States. It has also been introduced to Hawaii, Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Due to its specific habitat requirements, smallmouth bass do not adapt as well to many waters as largemouth bass, even within their native range. The largest smallmouth populations inhabit cool northern waters, but the largest fish are caught in the southern portion of their range.
Smallmouth bass prefer clear, calm waters and seek out areas with gravel, rubble, or rocky bottoms. They live in midsize, gentle streams that offer deep pools and plenty of shade, or in fairly deep, clear lakes and reservoirs with rocky bluffs, steep drop-offs and large shoals. They will also utilize weed beds and other vegetation, especially if found near some type of rock. Although they are fairly adaptable, they are rarely found in murky water. Smallmouth will inhabit rivers and streams with strong current but will spend most of their lives in areas that are sheltered from current.
Mature smallmouths prefer rocky, shallow areas of lakes and rivers and retreat to deeper waters as temperatures rise. They tend to seek cover and avoid bright sunlight. They hide in deep water, behind rocks and boulders, and around underwater debris and crevices, preferring water temperatures between 66 and 72 F.
Most bass do not travel great distances, and those in streams may spend the entire year in the same pool. As temperatures fall, they become less active and seek cover in dark, rocky areas.
Smallmouth bass spawn in the spring or early summer depending on latitude. Spawning movements will begin when water temperatures warm to between 60 and 65 F. Males build the nests in water anywhere from 1 to 12 feet deep depending on water clarity and available habitat. Nests are usually built over a gravel or rock bottom, though smallmouths will use a sandy bottom in lakes if gravel or rock is not available. They will also seek the protection of logs and boulders for the nests.
Females will drop between 5,000 and 14,000 eggs, depending on their age and size, while the males swim beside and release their milt to fertilize the eggs. All the time this process is going on the female is flipping her tail to clear the nest of any dibris. This vigorous flipping action often leaves the bottom lobes of the females tails rubbed raw.
Eggs will stick to rock and gravel in the bottom of the nest and hatch within four to 10 days depending on temperature. Sudden changes in temperature or water level can cause the eggs to die from shock, or they can cause the male to leave the nest, leaving the eggs unguarded against predators. Males protect the young as they absorb their yolk sac and continue to guard them for up to 30 days before leaving the nest.
Young fish tend to stay in quiet, shallow areas with rocks and vegetation until they reach maturity.
Young smallmouth bass feed mainly on plankton and switch to larger prey like water insects, amphibians, crayfish, and other fish as they grow.
Adult smallmouth bass are opportunistic predators and will eat whatever prey is available in their environment. Though they consume both aquatic and terrestrial insects, the majority of their diet is made up of crayfish and several prey fish species. Crayfish are the preferred meal where available, but smallmouth will also feed heavily on shad, perch, minnows, panfish and even small bass.
Smallmouth will feed at whatever depths they inhabit at a given time. At times, they may move to shallow water specifically for feeding, and can often be found chasing schools of baitfish or insects at the surface.
Smallmouth bass are strong, scrappy fighters and are known for their ability to jump numerous times during the fight in attempts to shake free from a hook. They are known as good but not great table fare, generally thought of as better tasting than largemouth bass, but not as good as walleye.
Angling strategies will vary greatly depending on the body of water and time of year. In lakes, anglers will fish near rocky points, bluffs, islands and riprap banks. In rivers, anglers often fish for smallmouth below structures or objects like undercut banks, sunken logs, stumps and rock walls during high water periods in spring. Later in the season, areas above these places can be productive due to weaker current. Anglers should work a bait or lure with the current to imitate the natural movement of fish in a river.
Fishing for smallmouths with live crayfish is particularly popular among live bait fishermen. Another good choice is a nightcrawler. Live crayfish and worms can be worked behind various bottom-bouncing rigs in flowing water, and under bobbers in calm water.
A variety of artificial lures will also catch smallmouth. Those that imitate crayfish are the most popular, including crayfish-colored crankbaits, jigs and soft plastic imitations. When smallmouth are feeding on prey fish, curly-tail grubs, minnow-imitating crank baits and spoons are most effective.
- The largest smallmouth bass ever reported weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces. It was caught in Dale Hollow Lake on the border between Tennessee and Kentucky in 1955.
- Smallmouth bass were harvested commercially in North America until the 1930s, a practice that stopped due to overfishing concerns.