|Florida Fish: Black Bass|
The Florida black bass or Black Bass is a species of freshwater
fish that displays an elongated body and is part of the sunfish family.
Of all the black bass, the largemouth bass is the most widely known and
prized catch. Although it is a prized trophy fish, its consumption should be limited
due to small amounts of mercury within the fish. Some experts suggest
only six ounces per month so levels of mercury in the body do not reach
dangerous levels. The diet of bass changes with its size. Young fish
feed on microscopic animals (zooplankton) and small crustaceans such as
grass shrimp and crayfish. Fingerling bass feed on insects, crayfish,
and small fishes. Adult bass will eat whatever is available, including
fish, crayfish, crabs,
salamanders, snakes, mice, turtles and even birds.
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) The largemouth is the largest member of the sunfish family. It generally has light greenish to brownish sides with a dark lateral line which tends to break into blotches towards the tail. Often confused with smallmouth and spotted bass, it is easily distinguishable because the upper jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the eye. Also, its first and second dorsal fins are almost separated by an obvious deep dip, and there are no scales on the soft-rayed second dorsal fin or on the anal fin. The largemouth bass prefers clear, non-flowing waters with aquatic vegetation where food and cover are available. They occupy brackish to freshwater habitats, including upper estuaries, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. Largemouth bass can tolerate a wide range of water clarities and bottom types, and prefer water temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees. This bass is usually found at depths less than 20 feet.
Redeye Bass (Micropterus coosae) The red color of eyes and fins easily separates the redeye bass from other bass. Suwannee and shoal bass also have red eyes but generally have less red on fins. Redeye bass generally are brownish to greenish in color with vertical bars with light centers along their sides and are bronze-olive above, dark olive mottling, yellow-white to blue below. The redeye bass has a prominent dark spot on the gill cover, scales on the base portion of the soft-rayed dorsal fins, clearly connected first and second dorsal fins, and an upper jaw bone that does not extend beyond the eyes. The redeye bass of Alabama and Georgia is so rare in Florida that it is not considered a resident fish and in fact may never have been collected here. Likely to be found in rocky runs, pools of creeks and small to medium rivers close to main-channel habitat, the redeye bass is seldom found in natural lakes, pond or impoundments. This bass prefers a water temperature of about 65 degrees.
Shoal Bass (Micropterus cataractae) Until October 1999, this species was variously considered to be a redeye bass or subspecies of the redeye bass. The red color of eyes associates this species with the redeye and Suwannee bass at first glance. However, it is more closely related to the spotted bass morphologically. Shoal bass generally are olive green to nearly black along the back. A dusky dark blotch about 50-67 percent of the size of the eye occurs on the back edge of the gill cover. Three diagonal black lines radiate along the side of the head looking like war paint. 10-15 vertical blotches appear along the sides with tiger-stripes often appearing in between. The belly is creamy or white and wavy lines may appear slightly above the white belly on the sides. The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are dark olive green to grayish black. Pelvic fins may have a cream colored leading edge with dark spots. The shoal bass is common in the Apalachicola, Chipola River where shoals exists. It is also known in the Chattahoochee and Flint river drainages.
Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus) The spotted bass is similar in appearance to the largemouth bass. This bass has a green to olive-green hue, with a white, mottled belly and a broad stripe of broken blotches, usually diamond-shaped, along the midline of the body. Unlike the largemouth, the spotted bass has scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin; its first and second dorsal fin are clearly connected, and its upper jaw does not extend past the eye. Above the lateral line there are dark markings, and below the lateral line the scales have dark bases that give rise to the linear rows of small spots which are responsible for the common name. While widely distributed outside Florida, the spotted bass is restricted to streams of the panhandle from the Perdido River to the Apalachicola River. Abundance is limited in this area, but the fish primarily occurs in and west of the Choctawhatchee River.
Suwannee Bass (Fundulus jenkinsi) A heavy-bodied bass seldom exceeding 12 inches long, the Suwannee bass's most unique characteristic is its bright turquoise, blue coloring on the cheeks, breast, and ventral parts. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eye. A pattern of dark vertical blotches occurs along the lateral line. There is generally a distinct dark blotch where the lateral line meets the caudal fin on the Suwannee bass. Originally restricted to the Suwannee and Ochlockonee River systems of Florida and Georgia, the Suwannee bass also occupies spring-fed lower reaches of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers, tributaries of the Suwannee River and the St. Marks and Aucilla/Wacissa systems where it was introduced. Generally preferring more rapidly flowing water along rocky shoals, the Suwannee bass is also found in large springs and spring runs.
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