The first thing many of you are asking yourself right now is, what is a shoal bass? Well, unless you are from the state of Georgia there is a good chance you do not know what they are, because they basically only live in Georgia.
About: A shoal bass (micropterus cataractae) is a distinct and separate species of black bass than a largemouth bass – which is the most common of the black bass family. They have existed for hundreds of years but just recently in 1997 were recognized as an official separate black bass species. Unlike largemouth and other black bass, shoal bass only thrive in rivers.
Do They Have Any Other Names/Nicknames? Yes, Shoal Bass may just be the king of other names or nicknames. This is partly because they were only officially given the name shoal bass in 1999. Before that, people had to come up with their own names for them. The common nickname today is “shoalie.” However, you still may hear people call them redeyes, Flint River smallmouth, chipola bass or coosa bass. Big ones are referred to as shoaliemonsters, shoaliezillas or green and gold thighs.
What Do They Look Like? So, what makes a shoal bass different from a largemouth, smallmouth, spotted or other black bass? The black bass family has many similar characteristics, but some only have a few of the common links while others will have a different combination of the tell tale signs. Obviously the thing that most people will notice about them is that they look different than a largemouth bass. These fish are typically a different shade of green that is slightly brown or gold tinted. They also have their distinct tiger stripes on the sides. Once you’ve caught a lot of these fish you will just be able to tell the difference between a shoalie and any other kind of black bass without even thinking twice. However, if you still can’t tell strictly on looks then you will need to open the fish’s mouth and check for a toothy patch right on its tongue. In the fishing world it is sometimes referred to as a tongue patch. If it has this, pencil eraser sized rough patch, then it is not a shoal bass. Shoalies do not have the patch, but spotted bass and redeye bass do. There are no smallmouth living in the drainage’s that shoal bass live in and even though they don’t have a tongue patch, they typically are much darker and more of a bronze color than a green and gold color like a shoal bass. Shoal bass also have a slightly smaller mouth than a largemouth but slightly bigger than a spotted, redeye or smallmouth bass; and their jaw, when shut, does not extend past their eye. Shoal bass also have a connected dorsal fin.
What Goes In Their Belly?
They eat all the typical things that largemouth bass do, but just in a different setting. Their diet mostly consists of crawfish, hellgrammites, insects and other small fish including shad, bream and catfish etc. Of course, if they see a snake, lizard or frog pass by they will eat it too. Like most fish, they tend not to be too picky – if it can fit in their mouth they will give it a shot. If they don’t like it they can always spit it out – unless its your lure!
So, Where Can I Catch ‘Em?
Well, their scientific name, micropterus cataractae, literally means “fish of the waterfall.” So, if you haven’t guessed it yet, they typically are found living in the shoal and rapid sections of their rivers – it is their niche. The fish are only native to the Apalachicola Drainage of rivers in the state of Georgia – most notably the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers and their tributaries. The Chattahoochee River creates the border between Georgia and Alabama for approximately 150 miles, therefore the fish is technically in Alabama as well since the state shares the river and several tributaries of the river flow from Alabama in the main river. However, the shoal bass population in those tributaries is at an all time low and there is currently only one place to find a fishable population of shoal bass in Alabama tributaries. Alabama has recognized the shoal bass as a species of special concern and have begun action in restoring these fish to their native waters in Alabama. After the Chattahoochee joins the Flint River beneath Lake Seminole in southwest Georgia, the water flows out of the dam into Florida and is then given the final name – The Apalachicola River. The sunshine state still has some shoal bass water in it too, but like Alabama, not in any real fishable populations. There is one tributary of the river that has a fair population, but to call it a destination or a true fishable population throughout its waters would be misleading. To sum it up, Georgia is really the place to catch shoal bass. The fish was also illegally introduced into the Ocmulgee River in the late 1970’s and it is doing well there. However, with constant environmental changes and other foreign species being introduced into their habitat (namely spotted bass), the fish should be of special concern no matter where it is found.
The world record shoal bass weighed 8lbs 12oz and was caught in the Apalachicola River below the Lake Seminole dam. Since the shoal bass in that area are all but gone, it is probably going to be a Florida state record forever, but many people believe the new world record shoal bass is swimming around somewhere right now in Georgia waters. I am one of those people by the way.
What I Like Bassin’ For Them:
Well, they get big and fight hard, need any more reasons? They are aggressive and will eat any kind of bass lure so you can pick your poison when fishing for them.
Shoal bass are a great fish and we must continue to help protect and preserve such an awesome resource. To help support a terrific group has sprung up called “The Shoal Bass Alliance.” Please click here to find out how you can help. Also, practicing catch and release is always a good idea, especially with shoal bass in my opinion because they are in such a limited area.
Now that you know what a shoal bass is, look for more articles in the River Bass 101 section soon so you can learn about the other six great river black bass species you can catch!