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Black Bass Statewide Reports

Evaluation of the black bass 10-inch minimum size limit in New York rivers

Jeff Loukmas, NYSDEC

Black bass (smallmouth and largemouth bass) are generally managed under a statewide minimum size limit of 12 inches during the harvest season. However, there are a number of rivers and streams throughout the state where they are managed under a 10-inch minimum size limit. This special regulation was established to allow harvest of bass from populations that are generally believed to not grow as large as their lake and pond counterparts. From 2013 -2017 black bass populations in 10 rivers with the 10-inch minimum size regulation were sampled using boat electrofishing, angling, or both. Smallmouth bass populations were assessed for size structure, growth, and longevity. These metrics were compared with averages from inland river and lake populations with the 12-inch minimum size limit to determine if there were differences in size, age and growth. Size structures and growth were highly variable among study rivers, but the average values for these metrics were similar to averages for statewide regulation rivers and lakes. Rivers with the 10-inch minimum size limit had a lower proportion of older (> age 5) smallmouth bass than statewide rivers and lakes, an indication that longevity is likely less in these rivers. Shorter lifespans in these rivers should result in a smaller proportion of larger bass (>14 inches (the approximate length at age-5)), but this was only weakly reflected in the size structure indices. All 10 study rivers had smallmouth bass >12 inches, including seven rivers where >20% of the adult stock population was ≥12 inches. This suggests that smallmouth bass can obtain sufficient sizes in adequate numbers to provide opportunities for angler harvest under the statewide regulation in these rivers. The results of this study and general bass harvest patterns across the state suggest that there is little benefit to maintaining the special 10-inch minimum size limit regulation in rivers and streams. Elimination of this regulation and replacing it with the statewide minimum size limit should not affect angler opportunity and will simplify the current suite of black bass fishing regulations.

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Black Bass Angler's Experiences in New York and Their Views on Tournaments and Fisheries Management

Nancy Connelly and Barbara Knuth, Cornell University

To better understand the characteristics, fishing activities, and views on management and tournaments of black bass anglers in New York, a mail survey was conducted of 1,500 anglers who indicated in the 2007 statewide angler survey that black bass was among their top two favorite species to fish for in New York. Most responding anglers do not keep any legal sized bass that they catch, but those who prefer to use baitfish or other natural baits tend to keep bass more than those who prefer to use artificial baits. Three quarters (74%) of responding anglers fished for bass (for an average of 18.8 days) in 2012, and a similar percent (72%) were satisfied with their black bass fishing experiences. Support or opposition for special fishing regulations appears to exist regardless of the objective for the regulation. This suggests that anglers don't view special regulations as a means to an end, but as an end in and of itself. Also, while two-thirds of anglers had not participated in a black bass tournament in New York in the past 5 years and had no interest in participating in the future, they did not think tournaments should be banned. They tended to agree that tournaments provide an economic boost but felt they should be held only on larger waters, and that they did reduce the quality of the fishing experience for non-tournament anglers. These results are useful to fishery managers as they consider what management actions they might take, as well as others interested in promoting tournaments.

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Characterizing the Status of Black Bass Populations in New York

Christian Perry, William Fisher, Patrick Sullivan, Randy Jackson, Cornell University, Jeff Loukmas, NYSDEC

A 3-year study assessing the current status of black bass populations in New York was completed in September 2014. The last comprehensive black bass population study in New York was conducted about 30 years ago and, since that time, black bass fisheries and many associated aquatic habitats have undergone significant changes. Catch and release and tournament angling have become much more prevalent, a winter and spring catch and release fishing season was implemented, and ecologically impactful invasive species such as zebra mussels and round gobies have been introduced into many waters. Thus, a new foundation of black bass population information was needed in order to assess responses to these changes.

The study was conducted by the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University and funded through a Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Grant. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass population data were compiled and summarized from 4 long-term fisheries databases. Important population metrics such as relative abundance, growth, condition, and size structure were summarized for inland lakes, including Oneida Lake, and Lake Erie and the eastern basin of Lake Ontario. The influence of environmental parameters, spatial patterns, and population trends through time were part of the assessment. Results indicated that both Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass populations are generally doing well throughout the state and some metrics have improved over the time series of the databases, providing some evidence that bass populations are adjusting to changing conditions in a positive way.

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A Review of River and Stream Black Bass Data from the New York Statewide Fisheries Database, 2004-2013

Jeff Loukmas, NYSDEC and Christian Perry, Cornell University

Black bass provide popular fisheries in many of New York's warmwater rivers and streams, but these populations have not been comprehensively assessed, and thus are not as well understood as their lake and pond counterparts. Therefore, black bass population data (length, weight, ages) from the Statewide Fisheries Database from 2004-2013 were summarized and key population metrics (catch rates, condition, growth) were assessed and compared among stream/river, lake, and St. Lawrence River populations throughout the state. There were over twice the number of surveys, fish collected and waterbodies sampled for lakes than there were for rivers and streams. Also, on average, lake collected bass were longer, weighed more, and were older than river and stream collected bass, but this may be due, in part, to the different sampling methods used for each waterbody type. Few river and stream surveys provided the data necessary for a comprehensive assessment of bass populations, which limited the assessment of statewide population metrics and waterbody type comparisons. The lack of age data for river and stream bass was the most limiting factor in the assessments. Management recommendations included developing standard warmwater river and stream sampling and assessment methods, and comprehensively assessing river and stream black bass populations and fisheries by evaluating growth, longevity, and exploitation. This project was a collaborative effort between the NYSDEC Bureau of Fisheries and the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University.

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