This is one of the scrappiest fish that swims. An increasing number of anglers throughout the state are learning that largemouth bass, with their jolting strikes and wild airborne leaps, are an exciting fish to catch. And increasingly, Minnesota is becoming nationally known for its largemouth bass. Professional bass fishing tournaments are held in state lakes and rivers throughout the summer.
Largemouth bass look similar to their close cousin, the smallmouth. Often they are found in the same waters. To tell the two apart, look at the closed mouth. If it extends back beyond the back of the eye, the fish is a largemouth. If it goes only to the middle of the eye, it's a smallmouth.
Stout and heavy in comparison to the sunfishes and crappies, the rock bass has red eyes and brassy flanks with black spots. A large rock bass measures about 10 inches and weighs about a pound.
The rock bass spawns in the spring, when the water temperature ranges from the high 60s into the 70s. The male fans out a nest in coarse sand or gravel and guards the eggs and fry. It lives in many lakes and streams in Minnesota, generally preferring well-oxygenated, hard water walleye lakes and walleye centrarchid lakes and the creeks associated with them. The rock bass prefers boulder and sand bottoms. It eats small fish, insects, crayfish and other invertebrates.
Rock bass require little management other than the protection of its habitat from pollution and other environmental degradation.
Sometimes called a "bronzeback" for its brassy brown hue, the smallmouth is one of the strongest fish for its weight. Many anglers who hook a 2-pounder will swear it's twice that big until the fish is in the net. Smallmouth are native to the Mississippi River watershed. They are abundant in warm southeast Minnesota rivers, central Minnesota lakes, and in northern waters such as Vermilion Lake and big Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness lakes, where the species was introduced in the late 1800s.
White and yellow
White and yellow bass are related to the much larger striped bass, a native of the Atlantic Ocean that has been stocked in freshwater but does not occur in Minnesota.
The white and yellow bass resemble one another, but as their names suggest, they are different colors. The white bass has separated dorsal fins, the second anal spine is one-third the length of the head, and the seven longitudinal stripes under the dorsal fins are solid. The yellow bass has joined dorsal fins, the second anal spine is half the length of the head, and the seven longitudinal stripes are broken. Both are deep bodied and occasionally exceed 2 pounds.
The yellow bass is limited to the backwaters of the Mississippi below Lake Pepin. The white bass is common in the Minnesota River, the St. Croix below Taylors Falls, the Mississippi below St. Anthony Falls and major tributaries, such as the Cannon and Zumbro rivers. It also occurs in reservoirs on these river systems and in several lakes in southern Minnesota. Because of its greater size and abundance, the white bass is a more important sport fish than the yellow bass. Though the following remarks apply to the white bass, they are generally true of the yellow bass as well.
White bass spawn over gravel bars in late April to June, when water temperature ranges from 55 to 79 degrees. Mass upstream spawning runs in the Mississippi and its major tributaries provide excellent fishing in April and May. The white bass is extremely prolific; a large female may lay more than 500,000 eggs. No care is given the eggs or fry, and few survive. The fish continue to swim in schools through the summer. Both species occupy rather open water, often near the surface. Adults feed on zooplankton, aquatic insects and small fish. Gizzard shad are important forage in large rivers. Individual fish may travel more than 100 miles in their seasonal movements.
White bass require little management beyond habitat protection, and aren't introduced into waters where they don't already occur.