Watchable Wildlife - Black Bass
Did You Know?
- Black bass, a term that includes both largemouth and smallmouth bass, are the largest species of the sunfish family.
- Males construct nests and guard the eggs and fry (young fish) until they are old enough to disperse. Females typically provide no parental care and disperse from nest sites soon after depositing eggs.
- During the spawning season, male black bass become very aggressive toward intruders, including other bass, striking at or chasing away those that come too close to the nest. Males will not eat during this period and may inhale small intruders like salamanders only to release them far from the nest
- Black bass are generally considered ambush predators, hiding under cover and waiting for prey to swim close before striking them with lightning speed.
- Black bass are the most popular sportfish species in New York State as indicated in the 2007 Statewide Angler Survey.
What to Watch for:
Black bass reach maturity at 3 or 4 years of age and are typically 10 - 13 inches long at that time. By age 10, these species can reach an impressive 20 inches or more in length and weigh over 5 pounds.
Color and Appearance:
Smallmouth bass: mostly greenish-brown in color, with dark vertical bands along the side; upper jaw does not reach beyond the back edge of the eye.
Largemouth bass: mostly greenish colored overall, with dark blotches that form a wide horizontal band along the side; upper jaw extends beyond the back edge of the eye.
Other Signs to Look for:
Found in shallow water, the saucer-shaped nests usually are 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The male builds the nest by placing his lower jaw or tail in the bottom substrate and rotates around a central location. Nests generally are built on gravel, but a wide variety of substrates may be used, including cobble, roots, sand, mud and vegetation.
Where to Watch:
During the spawning season (May - July), black bass are found in shallower parts of ponds, lakes, and streams or rivers, where the water is mostly clear and has rocks, vegetation, or submerged logs to use for cover. Both species may occur in the same water body, but largemouth bass typically prefer warm, weedy portions of lakes, ponds and slow rivers, whereas smallmouth bass generally prefer deeper, cooler, clearer water with less vegetation and rivers with a more moderate current.
When to Watch:
Best time to watch is during the spawning season from spring into early summer.
Best Places to See Black Bass:
- Conesus Inlet Fish and Wildlife Management Area, Livingston County
- Great Swamp Conservancy, Madison County
- Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Tonawanda and Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area, Orleans and Genesee Counties
More Information about Black Bass:
- The Sunfishes of New York
- Black Bass (Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass) Study
- Smallmouth Bass Fishing on Lake Erie
- Places to Fish
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