BLACK BASS

Largemouth Redeye Shoal Spotted Suwannee

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FLORIDA LARGEMOUTH BASS Largemouth bass

(Micropterus salmoides floridanus)

Common Names - black bass, Florida bass, Florida (or southern) largemouth, green bass, bigmouth, bucketmouth, linesides, Oswego bass and green trout.

Description - The largemouth is the largest member of the sunfish family. It generally has light greenish to brownish sides with a dark lateral line which tends to break into blotches towards the tail. Often confused with smallmouth and spotted bass, it is easily distinguishable because the upper jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the eye. Also, its first and second dorsal fins are almost separated by an obvious deep dip, and there are no scales on the soft-rayed second dorsal fin or on the anal fin.

Subspecies - Two are recognized: the northern largemouth (M. s. salmoides) and the Florida largemouth (M. s. floridanus). The two look much the same, but the Florida largemouth has 69-73 scales along the lateral line compared to the northern largemouth's 59-65 scales. Florida bass grow to trophy size more readily than northern largemouth in warm waters.

Range - Originally, the Florida largemouth was found only in peninsular Florida, but they have been stocked in several other states including Texas and California. Pure northern largemouth bass are not found in Florida. Genetic intergrades between the subspecies, however, occur throughout north Florida.

Habitat - Prefers clear, nonflowing waters with aquatic vegetation where food and cover are available. They occupy brackish to freshwater habitats, including upper estuaries, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. Also, they can tolerate a wide range of water clarities and bottom types, prefer water temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees, and are usually found at depths less than 20 feet.

Spawning Habits - Spawning occurs from December through May, but usually begins in February and March in most of Florida when water temperatures reach 58 to 65 degrees and continues as temperatures rise into the 70s. The male builds saucer-shaped nests 20 to 30 inches in diameter by placing its lower jaw near the bottom and rotating around this central location. Bass prefer to build nests in hard-bottom areas along shallow shorelines or in protected areas such as canals and coves. Depending on her size, the female can lay up to 100,000 eggs, which are fertilized as they settle into the nest. After spawning is completed, usually five to 10 days, the male guards the nest and eggs and later the young (sometimes called fry) attacking anything that approaches the nest. The female bass stays near the nest or may swim a short distance and remain listless for up to a day. After hatching, the fry swim in tight schools, disbanding when the small fish reach a length of about one inch.

Distinguishing between male and female bass based on external characteristics is very difficult, except with mature fishes during spawning season.  At that time, a milky substance (milt) can be extruded from the vent of males and a few greenish colored eggs may appear at the vent of  females.  Females, however, grow significantly larger than males.  Virtually all bass over eight pounds are female.

Feeding Habits - The diet of bass changes with its size. Young fish feed on microscopic animals (zooplankton) and small crustaceans such as grass shrimp and crayfish. Fingerling bass feed on insects, crayfish, and small fishes. Adult bass will eat whatever is available, including fish, crayfish, crabs, frogs, salamanders, snakes, mice, turtles and even birds.

Age and Growth - Growth rates are highly variable with differences attributed mainly to their food supply and length of growing season. Female bass live longer than males and are much more likely to reach trophy size. By age two or three, females grow much faster than male bass. Males seldom exceed 16 inches, while females frequently surpass 22 inches. At five years of age females may be twice the weight of males. One-year old bass average about seven inches in length and grow to an adult size of 10 inches in about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 years. The oldest bass from Florida whose age has been determined by fisheries biologists was 16 year of age. Generally, trophy bass (10 pounds and larger) are about 10 years old. The formula used by Florida scientists to estimate weight based on length and girth is: log(weight, in grams) = -4.83 + 1.923 x log(total length, in mm) + 1.157 x log(girth, in mm). Click here for an automated formula, and here to determine how to properly measure your fish.

Sporting Qualities - The largemouth bass is Florida's most popular freshwater game fish. Much of its popularity is due to its aggressive attitude and willingness to strike a lure or bait with explosive force. They will strike almost any kind of artificial lure or live bait, but most are taken on plastic worms, surface plugs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, bass bugs and shiner minnows. The value of the largemouth as a sport fish has prompted a movement toward catch-and-release fishing. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply, and you can register a qualifying catch as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's "Big Catch" program.   Black bass are the most popular sportfish in north America and their value to Florida is immense (see:  Florida Bass Values for more details).  Florida's top ten bass destinations are updated annually on our fishing sites/forecast page.

Eating Quality - The meat is white, flaky and low in oil content. The flavor depends upon the way the fish are cleaned and prepared. The strong weedy taste of bass caught in some waters may be eliminated by skinning the fish and salting and peppering the fillets before battering. Fillets usually are fried, while larger ones may be baked.

World Record - 22 pounds, 4 ounces, caught in Montgomery Lake, Georgia in 1932.

Certified State Record - 17 pounds, 4-1/4 ounces, caught in an unnamed lake in Polk County in 1986. (Please check link for updates)

Uncertified State Record - 20 pounds, 2 ounces, caught in Big Fish Lake (private pond) in Pasco County in 1923.

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SUWANNEE BASS Suwannee bass

(Micropterus notius)

Common Names - No other common names are known. It is sometimes incorrectly identified as a smallmouth bass, redeye bass or a spotted bass.

Description - A heavy-bodied bass seldom exceeding 12 inches long. The most unique characteristic of a mature Suwannee bass is its bright turquoise, blue coloring on the cheeks, breast, and ventral parts. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eye. Also, there is a shallow notch between the dorsal fins with a distinct connection between the spiny and soft-rayed dorsal fins. A pattern of dark vertical blotches occurs along the lateral line. There is generally a distinct dark blotch where the lateral line meets the caudal fin. Scales are present on bases of dorsal, anal and caudal fins.

Subspecies - It is a distinct species with no known subspecies.

Range - Originally restricted to the Suwannee and Ochlockonee River systems of Florida and Georgia. Also occupies spring-fed lower reaches of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers, tributaries of the Suwannee River and the St. Marks and Aucilla/Wacissa systems where it was introduced.

Habitat - Generally prefers more rapidly flowing water along rocky shoal areas but is not restricted to these areas. Also found in large springs and spring runs. The Suwannee bass is designated a "Species of Special Concern" because of its limited range. Degradation of habitat or water quality in the Suwannee and Ochlockonee rivers could threaten this species.

Spawning Habits - Spawning occurs from February to June when water temperatures reach 65 to 68 degrees. Reproduction is similar to the largemouth bass including nest construction.

Feeding Habits - Young fish feed on aquatic insects and small crustaceans. Larger fish feed heavily on crayfish and also take small fishes.

Age and Growth - Suwannee bass are generally smaller than largemouth bass. A two-pound fish is considered large. It seldom exceeds a length of 10 inches or a weight of 12 ounces.

Sporting Qualities - First described as a species in 1949, the Suwannee bass is seldom fished for specifically due to its small size and limited range. For a small fish they are strong fighters when caught on light tackle. Like largemouth bass they will take live baits or artificial lures. Popular lures and baits include small crayfish-colored spinnerbaits, crankbaits, plastic worms, jigs and crayfish. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply, and you can register a qualifying catch as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's "Big Catch" program.

Eating Quality - White, flaky meat with a good flavor and may be prepared like other freshwater bass.

State and World Record - 3 pounds, 14-1/4 ounces caught in the Suwannee River in 1985. (Please check link for updates)

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SPOTTED BASS Spotted Bass

(Micropterus punctulatus)

Common Names - Kentucky bass, Kentucky spotted bass, northern spotted bass, Alabama spotted bass, Wichita spotted bass, black bass, smallmouth bass and spot.

Description - Is similar in appearance to the largemouth bass. Has green to olive-green hue; white, mottled belly; and a broad stripe of broken blotches, usually diamond-shaped, along the midline of the body. Unlike the largemouth, the spotted bass has scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin; its first and second dorsal fin are clearly connected, and its upper jaw does not extend past the eye. Above the lateral line there are dark markings, and below the lateral line the scales have dark bases that give rise to the linear rows of small spots which are responsible for the common name.

Subspecies - Three are recognized: the northern spotted bass (M. p. punctulatus) has 60 to 68 scales along the lateral line, the Alabama spotted bass (M. p. henshalli) has 68 to 75 scales along the lateral line. Spotted bass can be found from Texas to the Florida panhandle including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Wichita spotted bass (thought by some to be extinct) is limited to the West Cache Creek, Oklahoma. The Alabama spotted bass has been introduced into California.

Range - While widely distributed outside Florida, the spotted bass is restricted to streams of the panhandle from the Perdido River to the Apalachicola River. Abundance is limited in this area, but the fish primarily occurs in and west of the Choctawhatchee River.

Habitat - Prefers small to medium streams and rivers with clear, slow-moving water, gravel or rock bottoms. Spotted bass may occupy reservoirs, but are seldom found in natural lakes. They do not enter brackish water.

Spawning Habits - Spawns very much like the largemouth. Spawning occurs in the spring when water temperatures reach 60 to 65 degrees. Sexually mature mates build saucer-shaped nests on a soft, clay bottom or on gravel bars generally near brush, logs or other heavy cover. The eggs hatch in four or five days, yielding up to 3,000 fry per nest.

Feeding Habits - The principal food items are crayfish, fish and aquatic insects. The species is less piscivorous than other black basses and seems to be more selective in its feeding habits.

Age and Growth - Tends to grow slower than largemouth bass and does not attain as large a size as other species. The young grow to 1-1/2 to 4 inches the first summer. Maturity is reached at about seven inches. Average lengths for fish aged 1 to 8 years are 4, 8, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 inches.

Sporting Qualities - Strong fighters when caught on light tackle. Popular lures and baits include jigs, crankbaits, spinners, small plastic worms and crayfish. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply, and you can register a qualifying catch as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's "Big Catch" program.

Eating Quality - White, flaky meat with good flavor. Generally considered better eating than largemouth.

World Record - 9 pounds, 4 ounces, caught in Lake Perris, California in 1987.

State Record - 3 pounds, 12 ounces, caught in Apalachicola River in 1985. (Please check link for updates)

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REDEYE BASS Redeye bass

(Micropterus coosae)

Common Names - Coosa bass, shoal bass, Flint River smallmouth, Chipola bass, black bass. NOTE:  Redeye bass may not exist in Florida. 

Description - The red color of eyes and fins easily separates this species from other bass. Suwannee and shoal bass also have red eyes but generally have less red on fins. Redeye bass generally are brownish to greenish in color with vertical bars with light centers along their sides and are bronze-olive above, dark olive mottling, yellow-white to blue below. Has a prominent dark spot on the gill cover. Has scales on the base portion of the soft-rayed dorsal fins, clearly connected first and second dorsal fins, and an upper jaw bone that does not extend beyond the eyes.

Subspecies - No known subspecies. There were two widely recognized forms: the Apalachicola form, now separately described as the species--shoal bass, and the Alabama form which remains classified as a redeye bass.

Range - The redeye bass of Alabama and Georgia is so rare in Florida that it is not considered a resident fish and in fact may never have been collected here.

Habitat - Likely to be found in rocky runs, pools of creeks and small to medium rivers close to main-channel habitat. They are seldom found in natural lakes, pond or impoundments. Prefers a water temperature of about 65 degrees. Shoal bass in the Chipola River are closely associated with rock shoals and is uncommon in other habitats.

Spawning Habits - Redeye bass spawn in coarse gravel at the heads of creek pools in late May to early July. Will not spawn in ponds or lakes. Prefers spawning temperature of 62 to 69 degrees. Like the largemouth the male prepares the nest and guards the eggs and fry.

Feeding Habits - Redeye bass feed mainly on aquatic insects on the surface. They also feed on larval insects, crayfish and fish.

Age and Growth - The growth rate of redeye bass is slow when compared to other species of black bass. Growth is fast the first year but decreases as the fish becomes older. Shoal bass grow much faster than redeye bass.

Sporting Quality - Is a good game fish and a scrappy fighter that is often difficult to catch. They can be caught on worms, minnows, or crayfish as well as small spinners and a wide variety of small surface lures. Some have been known to reach more than eight pounds. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply.

Eating Quality - Good. Has white, flaky meat and tends to be drier than that of a largemouth.

World Record - 8 pounds, 3 ounces, caught in the Flint River, Georgia in 1977. This fish was actually a shoal bass.

State Record - A fish weighing 7 pounds, 13-1/4 ounces was caught in the Apalachicola River in 1989; however, the identification is controversial. (Please check link for updates)

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SHOAL BASS Shoal bass

(Micropterus cataractae)

Common Names - shoal bass.

Description - Until October 1999, this species was variously considered to be a redeye bass or subspecies of the redeye bass. James Williams and George Burgess published the official description of the new species in Volume 42, No. 2 of the "Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History," which was printed on October 8, 1999.

The red color of eyes associates this species with the redeye and Suwannee bass at first glance. However, it is more closely related to the spotted bass morphologically. Shoal bass generally are olive green to nearly black along the back. A dusky dark blotch about 50-67 percent of the size of the eye occurs on the back edge of the gill cover. Three diagonal black lines radiate along the side of the head looking like war paint. 10-15 vertical blotches appear along the sides with tiger-stripes often appearing in between.

The belly is creamy or white and wavy lines may appear slightly above the white belly on the sides. The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are dark olive green to grayish black. Pelvic fins may have a cream colored leading edge with dark spots.

The shoal bass has scales on the base portion of the soft-rayed dorsal fins, clearly connected first and second dorsal fins, and an upper jaw bone that does not extend beyond the eyes.

Subspecies - No known subspecies. Until October 1999 this species was considered to have been a subspecies of the redeye bass.

Range -The shoal bass is common in the Apalachicola, Chipola River where shoals exists. It is also known in the Chattahoochee and Flint river drainages.

Habitat - Shoal bass are closely associated with rock shoals and is uncommon in other habitats.

Spawning Habits - Shoal bass spawn in coarse gravel at the heads of creek pools in April and May, to early June. Prefers spawning temperature of 64 to 73 degrees. Like the largemouth the male prepares the nest and guards the eggs and fry.

Feeding Habits - Shoal bass feed mainly on aquatic insects on the surface. They also feed on larval insects, crayfish and fish.

Age and Growth - Shoal bass grow much faster than redeye bass.

Sporting Quality - Is a good game fish and a scrappy fighter that is often difficult to catch. They can be caught on worms, minnows, or crayfish as well as small spinners and a wide variety of small surface lures. Some have been known to reach more than eight pounds. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply, and you can register a qualifying catch as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's "Big Catch" program.

Eating Quality - Good. Has white, flaky meat and tends to be drier than that of a largemouth.

World Record - 8 pounds, 3 ounces, caught in the Flint River, Georgia in 1977. This fish was a shoal bass but originally reported as the Apalachicola form of redeye bass.

State Record - 7 pounds, 13-1/4 ounces, caught in the Apalachicola River in 1989. (Please check link for updates)

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