Author: “Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca with the assistance of Captain Erika Ritter….
A LONG FORGOTTEN FACT! In 1930 the Chipola and Suwannee rivers of Florida were stocked with “government bass” by our ancient “Department of Game and Fresh Water Fish”. These “government bass” were obtained from a Federal hatchery. In 1992 “Ocklawahaman” found an account of this long-ago fish stocking while examining the State of Florida library archives in Tallahassee for interesting outdoors stuff–and photocopied it. More about these “government bass” later on and you will be able to read the report published in 1931 by the then named “Florida Department of Game and Fresh Water Fish”.
I will present FACTS in this article ONLY–without any of my own opinions about the possible origins of Florida’s SHOAL BASS and SUWANNEE BASS. You are free to reach your own conclusions or maybe pursue this subject further, if it interests you, with fisheries biologists in your home state.
BLACK BASS SPECIES DATA AND STREAMS WHERE I HAVE CAUGHT THEM:
LARGEMOUTH BASS (Micropterus salmoides) was first described as a species in 1802. “Northern largemouth” and “Florida largemouth” are the two recognized subspecies along with a HYBRID intergrade of the two. I have caught largemouth bass from these Florida river basins: St. Marys, St. Johns, Ocklawaha, Wekiva, Econlockhatchee, Suwannee, Santa Fe, Wacissa, Aucilla, St. Marks, Wakulla, Ochlockonee, Apalachicola, and Chipola. I have also caught largemouth bass from the Chestatee River of Georgia plus these 3 Oklahoma streams: Blue River, Medicine Creek and West Cache Creek.
SMALLMOUTH BASS (Micropterus dolomieu) was first described as a species in 1802. “Northern smallmouth” and “Neosho smallmouth” are the two recognized subspecies. I have caught smallmouth bass from the Blue River of Oklahoma.
SPOTTED BASS (Micropterus punctulatus) was first described as a species in 1819. “Northern spotted”, “Alabama spotted” and “Wichita spotted” (which may be extinct) are the three recognized subspecies. I have caught spotted bass from the Apalachicola River of Florida, the Chestatee River of Georgia, plus the Blue River and Medicine Creek of Oklahoma.
GUADALUPE BASS (Micropterus treculii) was first described as a species in 1883. I have never caught a Guadalupe bass which are only found in Texas.
REDEYE BASS (Micropterus coosae) was first described as a species in 1940. I have caught redeye bass from the Conasauga River in the Cohutta Wilderness of Georgia. I don’t remember taking any pictures of these redeye bass.
BLACK BASS CAN INTERBREED TO PRODUCE HYBRID INTERGRADES–SOME EXCERPTS FROM ONLINE REPORTS:
“..All are of the genus ‘Micropterus’ and can interbreed, producing hybrids of the two species…”
“…A hybrid occurs when one fish species spawns with a different, but closely related species. Hybrids can occur naturally or can also be intentionally produced in a hatchery… Hybrids of black bass species have been documented in the United States for some time. Early research dealt with hatchery production of a largemouth bass / smallmouth bass hybrid. This was the original ‘mean-mouth’ bass. The largemouth / smallmouth bass hybrid is not common in nature due to differences in both habitat preferences and spawning times. However, smallmouth bass and spotted bass can overlap in habitat use and spawning times. Generally, there are subtle behavioral differences associated with spawning that prevent or minimize hybridization. Although the smallmouth bass / spotted bass hybrid is not the original ‘mean-mouth’ bass, it has acquired this name over time…”
“…The most notably detrimental stockings are that of the Apalachicola basin where they compete and interbreed with the native shoal bass (creating ‘spoal bass’ hybrids), and in the reservoirs of the upper Tennessee River, where they compete and interbreed with the native smallmouth population (creating ‘meanmouth bass’ hybrids)…”
“…Further hybridization with spotted bass, which was documented in 2009 by FWC biologists (Porak et al. 2009), could lead to extirpation of “pure” shoal bass.
“…It is well documented that centrarchid species will often hybridize. Of all the black bass species, spotted bass appear to be the most opportunistic and hybridization has occurred between redeye X spotted bass (Barwick et al. 2006), largemouth X spotted bass (Godbout et al. 2009) and smallmouth X spotted bass (Pierce and Van Den Avyle 1997; Koppelman 1994). Recently in Florida, shoal bass X spotted bass hybrids were discovered in the Chipola River (Porak and Tringali 2009)…”
“…Genetically, the spotted bass is more closely related to the smallmouth than any other black bass; oddly, its green coloration makes it look more like a largemouth. Coexisting populations of smallmouth and spotted bass have been known to interbreed to give hybrid offspring, bringing the biological definition of these black bass species into question…”
1973 REPORT ENTITLED “REDEYE BASS”:
The following excerpts are from the article entitled “Redeye Bass” by Gene Smith in the June 1973 edition of “FLORIDA WILDLIFE” magazine published by the then “Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission”.
“Of the many fresh water game fishes of Florida, the most unique has to be the redeye bass, Micropterus coosae, a variety of black bass that, in our state, has been found just in the Chipola River, in Jackson County.
“The redeye was somewhat of a mystery fish for many years. Sport fishermen had been battling them for generations, along with plenty of largemouths, before fishery scientists became genuinely interested and collected a sufficient number of specimens to confirm the species identification, in 1956-57. Locals knew these scrappers as ‘shoal bass’ and ‘Chipola bass,’ and still call them that most of the time…”
1931 REPORT ENTITLED “SMALL-MOUTH BLACK BASS IN FLORIDA”:
The following are excerpted selections from “Small-Mouth Black Bass in Florida” an article in the Spring 1931 issue of “FLORIDA WOODS AND WATERS” which was the official magazine of the then “Florida Department of Game and Fresh Water Fish”.
“SMALL-MOUTH black bass in Florida waters? ‘As you probably know, ninety-nine people out of one hundred would be willing to bet that there are none of those fish in your State, but only the large-mouth species.’ It was Seth Briggs, Fishing Editor of Field and Stream, who wrote the foregoing to I. N. Kennedy, District Game Commissioner, who twenty-three years ago (“Ocklawahaman” calculation is 1908?) help plant this species of fish…By many the announcement of the taking of a small-mouth bass from Florida waters of greater size than ‘the biggest on record’ was greeted by the classic remark of the farmer, who looking on a giraffe in a circus menagerie said ‘thar ain’t no sech animal…”
“…In the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers they are frequently captured…Back of these findings lies some story–almost forgotten–of the planting of ‘government bass’ as they are often called.
“That it is possible to have them in other waters of the state seems an assured fact. During the summer of 1930 the Department of Game and Fresh Water Fish planted in the Chipola river, the Wakulla, the Wacissa and the Suwannee, fingerlings of small-mouth and rock bass, obtained from a Federal hatchery…”
To view the entire “FLORIDA WOODS AND WATERS” Spring 1931 “Small-Mouth Black Bass in Florida” 2-page article, click-on the two scanned photos which should make them large enough to read.