Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is aptly named because of its huge mouth, which extends to, or past the rear edge of the eye. That mouth allows the largemouth to feed on an enormous variety of prey, and in a number of ways. Largemouth can vacuum food from the bottom, ambush baitfish in the mid-depths or slurp meals from the surface. They are primarily fish eaters but they will also eat frogs, lizards, small snakes, crayfish, insects and even small rodents or birds. Adult largemouth bass are also cannibalistic and up to 10% of their diet may consist of bass fry.

Largemouth can be distinguished from their smallmouth cousins by the size of their huge mouths. Another giveaway is that the largemouth has two barely joined dorsal fins as opposed to the smallmouth's single dorsal. The largemouth also has a dark band running horizontally, just below its lateral line, whereas the smallmouth sports a series of vertical bars along its flanks.

The colour of a largemouth bass can vary considerably between lakes and even among separate populations in the same waterbody. In general, the top of the back and head ranges in color from bright green to olive to nearly black. The sides can be as dark as the head and back; a lighter green; a golden-green shade or milky-green. The belly is milky-white to yellowish.

Largemouth spawn during late spring and early summer in 62° F - 65°F water. The male builds the nest, which is usually two to three-feet in diameter and one to eight-inches deep.

Spawning generally takes place over shallow marl or soft mud bottoms in vegetated areas but largemouth bass will use gravelly or sandy areas if suitable soft-bottomed areas are not available. Female bass will spawn with several different males and they will deposit a total of between 2,000 and 100,000 eggs. After spawning, the females leave the males to guard the eggs and fry. The eggs hatch in 3 to 5-days and the young bass will remain together for as long as a month. Despite the large number of eggs laid, the survival rate for largemouth bass fry is low and only five to ten fish per nest site will survive their first two years. Young largemouth are preyed upon by perch, walleye, pike and other fish, as well as by birds like herons and kingfishers.

Largemouth prefer water temperatures in the mid-70°F to the mid 80°F range and are usually found in water less than 20-feet deep. Their habitat consists of soft- bottomed areas with wood or weed cover and they are particularly fond of water lilies, cattails and various species of pondweed. Once a home range is established, largemouth will rarely move more than a few miles from it.

The largemouth bass was once an important commercial fish species and was harvested by the ton up until the mid-1930s. Nowadays the largemouth is more valuable as a sport fish. They will readily strike a wide range of natural and artificial baits and they put up a hard, acrobatic fight when hooked. One of the most popular techniques is fishing with surface baits around weedy or stumpy areas especially in the evening.

The native range of the largemouth includes the area from the lower Great Lakes region in the north to the Mississippi River system in the west; east through Florida to the Atlantic coast and northward to Virginia. As a result of stocking largemouth can now be found across the continental United States and most of Canada. Although it has a large overall range, the largemouth can only be considered abundant in the more southerly areas. In Canada it is most common in southern and central Ontario, especially in the Kawartha and Rideau Lakes systems.

The average angler-caught largemouth bass will weigh under two-pounds, however three to four-pound fish are fairly common. Every year largemouth bass between six and eight-pounds are reported.

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