Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
The Everglades largemouth bass is one of the most important freshwater gamefish in the United States. It is a member of the sunfish family – a species of black bass native to North America. They are able to thrive in a wide range of habitats, and their average lifespan is approximately 16 years. They are similar in appearance to the smallmouth bass but can be distinguished by their longer upper jaw, which, when closed, extends beyond the eye. These are commonly seen in our Everglades airboat tours. We also offer jon boat rentals for those who want to try their hand at fishing for this handsome creature.
EVERGLADES LARGEMOUTH BASS (Micropterus salmoides) HABITAT
The environment where we conduct our group airboat tour and private airboat tour is the natural habitat of largemouth bass. The largemouth bass is native only to North America, with its original range spanning the eastern half of the United States and southern Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Due to their extensive stocking and adaptable nature, largemouth bass are now found in abundance throughout the Appalachian and Ozark Ranges, most of the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada. These bass live in lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and medium to large rivers. When living in larger lakes and reservoirs, they will travel between the main basin and smaller creeks and bays. They thrive in these creeks, ditches, canals, and sloughs.
SIZE & APPEARANCE
The largemouth bass is an olive-green fish marked by a broad black stripe with a series of dark splotches forming a jagged horizontal stripe along each of its sides. Its caudal fin also has a dusky black edge. They are the largest of the black basses, with the largest recorded overall length reaching 29.5 inches! Everglades Holiday Park Airboat Tours is happy to provide fishing excursions and tips for people who are interested in this.
LARGEMOUTH BASS DIET
Adult largemouth bass consume smaller fish, snails, crawfish, frogs, snakes, salamanders, bats, and even small water birds, mammals, and baby alligators. In larger waters, where these fish occupy deeper waters, their diets shift almost entirely to smaller fish such as shad, yellow perch, ciscoes, shiners, and sunfish. Younger largemouth bass diets consist of small baitfish, scuds, small shrimp, and insects.
Largemouth bass are very sought after by anglers due to the exciting fight they put up when hooked. They often jump out of the water while trying to free themselves. Most commonly, anglers use lures such as plastic worms, jigs, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits to attract these fish. When aiming for trophy fish, it is common for anglers to use live, large golden shiners, night crawlers, minnows, frogs, or crawfish. The color of plastic worms, a favorite part of their diet, can actually make a difference: they tend to go for natural colors like black, blue, and green.
Florida happens to be one of the top 10 destinations in the country for fly fishing, and largemouth bass may be lured to an angler in a middle water column where bass spend the majority of their lives. Fishing crankbaits are commonly used in these middle areas, but if an angler is taking a deep dip to the bottom, where temperatures reach their warmest in the colder winter months, they may choose a different bait. Soft plastic, mimicking forage like crawfish, will make largemouth head their way, as this is what bass eat at the bottom of lakes and rivers.
- The largemouth bass is known by a variety of names, including brown bass, widemouth bass, bigmouth bass, black bass, bucket mouth, Potter’s fish, Florida largemouth, green bass, green trout, Gilsdorf bass, linesides, Oswego bass, southern largemouth, and northern largemouth.
- The largemouth bass is the state fish of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida (state freshwater fish), and Tennessee (official sport fish).
- Largemouth bass do not migrate seasonally or to breed.
- It’s often thought that the largemouth is the largest, but that is not always the case! The Florida Bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) is a subspecies, and this bass grows to a larger size than the regular Largemouth.
Other Types of Bass
Largemouth are not the only ones in the sunfish family or living in Florida. Smallmouth bass, another popular fish living in North America, prefer a water temperature between 67 to 71 degrees.
As a body of water hits this temperature, it is the best time to catch bass as they are often more active and feeding. These bass will eat smaller fish, crayfish, and frogs, but bass fishermen find that using small fish and crawdads as live bait is effective. To distinguish between the two fish, the largemouth’s upper jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the eye. The smallmouth’s maxilla will not extend beyond the eye.
The striped bass occupy peninsular Florida as well as the St. John’s River running through central Florida. They are born in freshwater but move on to live in saltwater until they are ready to spawn. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation has placed careful limits on catching these small bass. Their numbers have again begun to decline due to their popularity as one of the best game fish in North America.
Spotted bass are another type living in the state of Florida. These big bass can be mistaken for their large mouth counterparts, but their mouths are considerably smaller upon inspection. They also have first and second dorsal fins, which the bass uses to maintain stability, that are very clearly connected. These bass prefer small streams over larger lakes and avoid brackish water.
Characteristics of Trophy Bass
There’s nothing more exciting than catching trophy bass, and fishing for largemouth bass is a great way to do it. Generally, a trophy size is at the 10-pound benchmark. The average age of this size of adult bass in the state of Florida is about 10 years old, at which time they can grow to almost two feet in length.
When catching bass and aiming for not just reaching trophy size but also attempting the current state record, a steep task is ahead. The present record is currently a 17.27-pound bass, and this record was set way back in 1986.
The Bass Spawn Cycle
Largemouth bass spawn in the waters of Florida between the months of January and April. This is earlier than much of the rest of the country because Florida waters warm much earlier. A juvenile largemouth bass will be ready to breed when they reach about a year old and one pound. When living in smaller waters, they may not spawn until two years of age.
During the spawning process, the female bass will find shallow water with a hard bottom to lay eggs while males will then visit and fertilize. Fishing is still possible as they guard their nests and eggs; in fact, as the bass become more aggressive and hungry, they can be more easily caught by newer anglers.
Importance of Largemouth Bass in Florida Ecosystem
Largemouth bass are an integral part of the Florida ecosystem, so it’s no surprise that they are closely monitored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. As the top predators in their ecosystem, they most definitely impact and influence food webs throughout the state’s waters.
Without bass, the minnow population would soar out of control, and there would be overconsumption of zooplankton. Ultimately, less zooplankton would impact the water color and cause an opaque green tinge as the phytoplankton rapidly increased.
Fishing Largemouth Bass in Florida
Florida is hailed as one of the most popular states for bass fishing with anglers, followed by other southern states like Georgia and Texas. The waters that may have the best chances for producing trophy winners when bass fishing in Florida are Lake Tohopekaliga, Lake Istokpoga, Rodman Reservoir, Kingsley Lake, Lake Okeechobee, and Lake Kissimmee as well as the vast waterways in around Everglades Holiday Park.
To best fish for bass in these areas, paying attention to the vegetation that is around can really pay off. Vegetation like water hyacinth and hydrilla provide excellent cover for the fish while keeping the water below nice and clear for them to spot the bait.
Lake Okeechobee, despite having an average depth of about 9 feet, is excellent for bass fishing. Specifically, the lower end’s South Bay and its abundant vegetation make for an excellent destination.
When trying for a larger catch, the quantity increases the odds and the number of fish biting can depend on the time of day as well as the month. Northern largemouth bass are more active in the morning and again later in the evening when the sun is low. Largemouth bass usually prefer less glare off the water. It’s also more likely to make a good amount of catches in the spring or summer months. Fishing in Florida is sure to bring an adventure at every turn!