- 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.
Spotted bass (Micropterus)
Anglers often confuse spotted bass with largemouth or smallmouth bass. It resembles both species, especially the largemouth, but the spotted bass is a lesser-known member of the black bass group of the sunfish family.
Spotted bass have an elongated but moderately thick body, which enables fast swimming at short distances. Coloration is olive-green to brown on the back and upper sides and white on the lower sides and belly. There is a series of interconnected, diamond-shaped splotches along the lateral line that form a horizontal stripe from the eye to the tail fin. Below this stripe tiny spots form thin horizontal lines across the lower side and belly. There are two connected dorsal fins, the first with tiny spines and the second with soft rays. Eyes are an orangish-brown coloration and, at times, take on a red appearance.
Two easy ways to tell the spotted and largemouth bass apart is that spotted bass have a sandpaper-like tooth patch on the tongue that largemouth bass lack, and the jaw of the spotted bass does not extend behind the eye, as it does on the largemouth bass. A spotted bass lips are often more abrasive than a largemouths, which anglers will notice when lipping the fish.
Spotted bass are native to North America, originating in rivers and streams throughout the Mississippi River drainage. Due to stocking and dam construction, they are now found from east Texas to the Florida panhandle in the south, and from southeast Kansas to West Virginia in the north. They have been introduced to waters as far west as California with mixed results; in some waters, spotted bass grow larger than in their native range but are quite rare in other waters in the same region. They have also been introduced to waters outside North America with some success, such as South Africa, where they are well established.
Spotted bass are native to small- and medium-sized rivers and streams and prefer clear, cool water, though they can survive in slower, warmer, and muddier waters than smallmouth bass. Compared to largemouth bass, their habitat requirements are more limited.
Although they seldom inhabit natural lakes, they thrive in man-made reservoirs created by damming their native river or stream. In these impoundments, spotted bass are generally found in deeper waters than largemouth bass, and often congregate in schools along drop-offs, bluffs and brush piles at depths of 30 feet or more. In rivers and streams they are commonly found along steep rocky banks, channel bends and rock dikes, preferably with some type of cover such as downed trees or rock piles.
The ideal temperature for spotted bass is between 70 and 79 F and they can tolerate temperatures much lower and slightly higher. Because of their need for cool water, spotted bass cannot survive in farm ponds and other small impoundments where water temperatures can exceed 90 F.
Spotted bass spawn mainly in river tributaries with gravel or mud bottoms and along rocky edges of lakes. They spawn in spring when water temperatures are between 63 and 68 F. Males make nests in colonies in mud or gravel bottoms by fanning silt away from their chosen nesting site with rapid movement of their tail fin. Nests have been recorded at relatively deep levels in some clear southern reservoirs (21 feet) and at very shallow levels in streams (10 inches).
Females deposit between 1,150 and 47,000 eggs into nests. Males guard the nests before hatching, then stay with the newly hatched fry for approximately one month. Juvenile spotted bass will often congregate in small schools near the spawning sites for the first year, after which they will join adults in the preferred spotted bass locations within a body of water.
Young spotted bass feed entirely on plankton, switching to insects and small invertebrates as they near adulthood. Adult spotted bass feed heavily upon crayfish, when available, followed by small fish, insects and insect larvae, frogs, worms, and grubs.
Due to their preference for crayfish, spotted bass feed more often at or near the bottom, especially in reservoirs, although they are know to chase large schools of shad and other baitfish near the surface or suspended well off the bottom.
Like their largemouth and smallmouth relatives, spotted bass are ambush feeders, often hiding in or around cover until a vulnerable crayfish or prey fish swims by. To capture prey, spotted bass open their jaws, flare their gills and create a vacuum effect that sucks in the food source before it is swallowed whole.
Spotted bass, like the largemouth and smallmouth, are valued for their fighting ability and eating qualities. Although they do not reach the sizes common to largemouth, and even many smallmouth, spotted bass display the same tenacious fighting ability. Many anglers insist that spotted bass fight harder than largemouth and as hard as smallmouth, though they do not jump as often when hooked. Their meat is white, flaky and considered good table fare.
Because they are often found in small schools, if one is caught, more are likely to be taken in the same location. Likewise, additional schools are often found in similar habitat conditions at other locations in the same body of water.
Due to their relatively small size, most anglers pursue spotted bass with light or medium-action tackle. Spinning gear is most common, particularly when using live bait, although bait-casting gear is popular as well. When fishing under cover, the preferred line weight is 10-pound test; in clear water, anglers may opt for 6-pound test or below. Small crayfish and medium-sized minnows are effective live baits. Popular artificials include small spinners, plastic worms and crayfish, skirted jigs and crayfish-imitating crankbaits.
- The all-tackle world record is 9 pounds, 7 ounces caught in California in 1994.
- Spotted bass will often compete for food and habitat with smallmouth bass. When they exist in the same body of water, spotted bass will often dominate the overall population.
- Spotted bass are known to hybridize naturally with smallmouth bass, making physical identification between these two similar species even more difficult.