Smallmouth Bass - (Micropterus dolomieui)
Length: 15 to 20 inches
Weight: 1.5 to 5 pounds
Coloring: brown, golden-brown through olive to green on back; sides lighter; cream to milk-white underside
Common Names: northern smallmouth bass, black bass, brown bass, white or mountain trout
Found in Lakes: Michigan, Huron, Ontario, Erie, and Superior
"Inch for inch and pound for pound the gamest fish that swims." Enthusiastic comments like this entered in the journals of the 19th and early 20th century paid tribute to this scrappy, well-proportioned fish. Because of these qualities and their relatively small numbers, Lake Michigan smallmouth bass are reserved exclusively for sport fishing.
During spring and summer, they concentrate in shallow bays and on reefs in upper Green Bay and off the Door County peninsula. Essentially a nonmigrating fish, they retreat to pools, undercut banks, or fairly deep water to avoid bright daylight. They are most active in early morning and evening. During winter, they gather near the bottom and feed little until spring and water temperatures rise to about 47 degrees F.
Smallmouths spawn when water temperatures rise in the spring. Males build several nests before choosing the final location, and construction of the nest can take anywhere from 4 to 48 hours. When a female appears, the male will drive her into the nest. The female will usually stay a little bit longer in the nest each time, and the dark mottlings on her back become prominent and the background pales when she is ready to spawn. Approximately 2,000 to 10,000 eggs are deposited into the nest during spawning. Males stay to protect the eggs and fry, but many nests fail. Floods destroy the nests, sudden temperature shifts cause fungal infections, and other fish prey on the eggs or fry.
Young smallmouth bass feed throughout the day on small crustaceans and graduate to insects and small fish by the time they are 1.5 inches long. Adult smallmouths eat fish, crayfish, and insects.
Many consider the flavor and texture of smallmouth bass superior to all Great Lakes fish except the whitefish. The low fat content of its flesh makes it easy to freeze for later consumption. If the lake's waters remain clean, these plucky game fish will undoubtedly continue to be a favorite attraction in some areas of the upper Great Lakes.
copyright 2001 University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
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