(1.6) BASS: Florida SMALLMOUTH BASS?
FLORIDA'S SHOAL BASS AND SUWANNEE BASS
JUST WHERE DID THESE "SMALLMOUTH" COME FROM?
An Information & Sources Report
Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca
With the assistance of Captain Erika Ritter
Article Originally Posted to Internet: 13 December 2010
Webpage Created: 06 February 2013
Last Revised: 28 August 2015
NOTE: Click-on individual photos to enlarge them!
2015 BLACK BASS NEWS: Near-world-record Suwannee bass live-released at Bass Pro Shops, Tallahassee!
2013 BLACK BASS NEWS: ANOTHER FLORIDA "SMALLMOUTH" BASS DISCOVERED!!!
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently reported the discovery of a new species of riverine black bass--to be known as the CHOCTAW BASS--that exists in the Florida panhandle and adjacent southeastern states. It is very similar to the SPOTTED or ALABAMA bass.
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 fish hatchery. In 1992 Ocklawahaman found an account of this long-ago fish stocking while examining the State of Florida library archives in Tallahassee for old and interesting fish/wildlife reports--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 report 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", "Neosho smallmouth" and "Ouachita smallmouth" are three reported varieties. I have caught smallmouth bass from the Blue River of Oklahoma and the Cowpasture River of Virginia.
SPOTTED BASS (Micropterus punctulatus) was first described as a species in 1819. "Northern spotted", "Alabama spotted" and "Wichita spotted" (which may be extinct) are three reported forms. 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.
SUWANNEE BASS (Micropterus notius) was first described as a species in 1949. I have caught Suwannee bass from the Ochlockonee, Santa Fe, and Suwannee rivers of Florida.
SHOAL BASS (Micropterus cataractae) was first described as a species in 1999. I have caught shoal bass from the Chipola River of Florida and the Chestatee River of Georgia.
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)…"
"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). The FWC has implemented a genetic study to help conserve native black bass species by (1) determining which species are present in panhandle streams and (2) monitoring populations for evidence of hybridization between species. Thus far, these investigations have uncovered two genetically distinct forms of spotted bass (M. punctulatus and M. sp. cf. punctulatus) in panhandle streams, one of which was previously unrecognized and has yet to be described (M. sp. cf. punctulatus). Members of this provisional taxon appear to be more closely related to Guadalupe bass (M. treculi) than northern spotted bass (M. punctulatus) and may be native inhabitants of western panhandle coastal lotic systems. Genetic studies have also documented that Chipola River shoal bass are hybridizing with M. sp. cf. punctulatus, M. punctulatus; and M. salmoides. During the course of three sampling years, nearly 10 percent of the presumptive shoal bass collected from the Chipola River were hybrids."
"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…"
The following excerpts are from the immortal treatise
Book Of The Black Bass
or its supplement
More About The Black Bass
By Dr. James Alexander Henshall
(versions printed from 1889 to 1917):
"But in 1874, Professor G. Brown Goode, while collecting in Florida, found this species exceedingly abundant, and the only species of the Black Bass represented in that State; consequently, in 1876, he restored the name bestowed on this species, from the same locality, by Le Sueur, in 1822 (Cichla floridana) , and in accordance with the law of priority, called it Micropterus floridanus (Le Sueur) Goode…" [NOTE: This excerpt was discussing "large-mouth" bass].
"The Black Bass is wholly unknown in the Old World, except where recently introduced, and exists, naturally, only in America. The original habitat of the species is remarkable for its extent, for, with the exception of the New England States and the Atlantic seaboard of the Middle States, it comprises the whole of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, Ontario (Canada), and East Mexico. So far, but one species, the large-mouthed Bass, is known to inhabit Florida, but it is my opinion that the small-mouthed species will also be found in some of the streams in the western part of that State…"
"The character of waters has but little influence upon the distribution of the species, less upon the large-mouth bass than upon his small-mouth congener. If the water is reasonably pure, both species will thrive in it; but, as has just been intimated, the small-mouth bass naturally seeks cooler and clearer waters. Thus, while he is found in the headwaters of certain rivers flowing into the Atlantic (notably those of the Alleghany region of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama), the large-mouth bass only occurs in the lower portions of the streams. There are several rivers in Hernando County, on the Gulf coast of Florida, that burst out from the base of a sandy ridge running parallel with the coast, and some twelve miles from it, whose sources are large springs, fifty or sixty feet deep, and of half an acre in extent. Their waters are remarkably clear and cool, with a strong current until tide-water is reached; and I have no doubt but the small-mouth bass would thrive wonderfully well in the upper portions of the streams if introduced into them, as the conditions all seem favorable, and the large-mouth bass is abundant in them…"
The Hernando County mention [above] bothered me a little because only the Weeki Wachee River is presently in Hernando County, Florida. Henshall described "several rivers" which to me would also maybe include these Citrus County, Florida SPRING rivers: Chassahowitzka, Homosassa (with the Halls), Crystal, and even possibly on its north border the Withlacoochee (South) fed by Rainbow Springs before the useless dam was placed across it (blocking upstream fish migration from tidewater parts). So I investigated Florida history and found that Citrus County was formed out of part of Hernando County in 1887 after Henshall started writing his book. All 5 or 6 of those rivers were located in or along Hernando County prior to 1887!
JUST THE FACTS!
It is a FACT that some of Florida’s panhandle streams were stocked in the early 1900’s with "government bass" by our then named "Florida Department of Game and Fresh Water Fish." These "government bass", obtained from federal fish hatcheries, consisted of some variety of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) plus rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris a.k.a. Ambloplites constellatus).
It is a FACT that these Florida panhandle rivers, from the Suwannee north and west (which receive much of their source water from Alabama and Georgia), would have been already populated prior to the 1930’s by these native fish species: intergrade largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides salmoides x Micropterus salmoides floridanus) and warmouth (Lepomis gulosus a.k.a. Chaenobryttus gulosus)--along with possibly shadow bass (Ambloplites ariommus) plus some form of spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus spp)--Northern or Alabama.
It is a FACT that some of these same streams contain shoal bass (Micropterus cataractae--first identified as a separate species in 1999) or Suwannee bass (Micropterus notius--first recognized as a separate species in 1949). In the case of the shoal bass, at least as far back as the 1950’s, it was thought to be a form of the redeye bass (Micropterus coosae--first named in 1940 as a separate species).
It is a FACT that the Suwannee/Santa Fe River basin has escaped all "fish-migration-stopping" dam building lest the 1960 "Suwannee Sill" across its Okefenokee Swamp extreme Georgia headwater.
It is a FACT that the Apalachicola/Chipola River basin, which connects to the Chattahoochee/Flint River basin of Alabama and Georgia, had no "fish-migration-stopping" dam building in Florida until 1957.
It is a FACT that various black bass Micropterus species occasionally hybridize with other black bass Micropterus species or even other sunfish Centrarchidae family species. Searching online will reveal MANY reports about this "fishy" interbreeding.
FLORIDA'S SHOAL BASS AND SUWANNEE BASS
JUST WHERE DID THESE "SMALLMOUTH" COME FROM?
Simple question but the answer may be "As clear as mud!"
REFERENCE AS: Nosca, P. 2015. "Florida's shoal bass and Suwannee bass just where did these 'smallmouth' come from?" webpage report. "Paul Nosca's bass fishing photos" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL. https://sites.google.com/site/paulnoscasbassfishingphotos/florida-smallmouth-bass