Spotted Bass, Yeah or Nay?

Published 9:05am Friday, November 4, 2011

Ask an angler about spotted bass and you are likely to get a positive response. Most folks in the fishing arena love the feisty fish. They are very aggressive, populate extremely well, and are fighting machines. So what’s not to love? We’ll get to that in a moment.
The spotted bass, also known as a Kentucky bass, or scientifically as Micropterus punctulatus, (I think I’ll stick with spotted bass),  is a species native mostly to the southeast. It grows a little bigger than a smallmouth on average , but fights harder than a largemouth. Kind of a best of both worlds scenario. It closely resembles both bass and can be hard to differentiate to those not familiar with them.
So what’s not to love? Well to me a lot of things. Back in the 80s and maybe earlier, the spotted bass was intentionally stock by state wildlife agencies in many new waters from the east coast to the west. The fish quickly thrived to the thrill of many, but with that came some very costly “side effects.”
The species seems to be similar enough to many species that it “hybridizes” with them. The U.S.G.S. studies have shown that this has likely caused a decline in smallmouth populations. I have also talked with resource officers in SC that told me the Coosa, or “Redeye” bass in the upper Keowee river system are about 51 percent hybridized with the spots.
There is also a threat to the population of smaller fishes, notes the U.S.G.S. the spots are “schoolie” type fish and are usually found in numbers together. These schools like to herd bait and then begin munching. The large numbers of spots can quickly get the predator ladder out of balance.
I have personally noticed the negative effects of spots on many of the lakes in our mountains. Lakes that were once smallmouth destinations are now places that “used to have smallies,” top walleye draws are now passed up.
I will have to say that the blame doesn’t all lie with state agencies. Many or maybe most waters have had spots illegally introduced by anglers. This is never a good idea for any species of fish. Not only is it illegal, but it can have long lasting effects on a fishery that may never be corrected.
And usually right after those brilliant anglers stock them in a lake, they usually follow up with blueback herring. A saltwater baitfish that can adapt to freshwater. They stock them so the spots can grow big fast.         But it is illegal to fish with them in most states where they are not already present, much less stock them. The herring eat a lot of fish eggs, and are greatly effecting bass and walleye populations.
Zebra mussels, Asian carp, kudzu, African bees, the Hemlock blight, the list goes on and on of things introduced to our area that have had major impacts.
Well, needless to say I am not a fan of spotted bass. I have “heard” of folks trying to stock them in our local lakes. If and when I catch a spot I remove it, that’s as politically correct as I can say it.
Sometimes its best to leave things alone. There are plenty of spotted bass lakes already, leave the rest alone. I hope folks will leave the stocking to the biologist who know a bit more about what and what not to do.

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