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What do you do about Rockies, Spotted & Largemouth Bass?


Rob G
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An issue came up at the last central Illinois meeting, one that I had never thought about and that is this;

What do you do when you catch a rock bass, spotted bass, or largemouth bass while fishing for smallmouth in the river? I have always released everything that I catch on the river but am I doing a disservice to the smallmouth? Assuming the largemouth or spotted bass are large enough by law to keep, is it better that I take them out so as to reduce the competition for food in respect to the smallies and at the same time reduce the chances of cross fertilization, hybridization and production of sterile offspring. I often catch a lot of rock bass, should I be keeping the larger ones for table fare, again as to reduce the competition for a limited food supply and allow the smaller ones to remain so as they can become the smallie's table fare? I mean if we can have an impact on the smallies by removing them, would it then not be possible to have a negative impact on other species by removing them and in turn have a positive long term impact on the smallmouth population? What are your thoughts?

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Selective harvest plays an important role in managing our ecosystems.

Our fisheries biologists depend on it, as a matter of fact.

 

I'm not sure that an angler keeping a few LM, spots or rockies here and there would make much difference in the long run, however.

 

With proper habitat and a strong native population among all species, the big picture pretty much plays out to the advantage of all species.

Tim Smith can certainly help distinguish the differences, and I'm eager to hear his take.

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My feelings are I can't have much of a effect and I don't know enough to judge whether my action would be for good or ill of the waterway.

 

Best to leave to the experts. I release everything.

 

I wouldn't like it if LMB fishermen were removing smallies for the same reason you stated. Who picks the species that stays? Eye of the beholder isn't it?

 

 

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Thank you. You can't imagine how many arguements I've gotten into with trout fishermen who throw smallmouths up on the bank because they might be eating their beloved trout. Don't kill mine, I won't kill yours. (even though yours is an invasive species).

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My feelings are I can't have much of a effect and I don't know enough to judge whether my action would be for good or ill of the waterway.

 

Best to leave to the experts. I release everything.

 

I wouldn't like it if LMB fishermen were removing smallies for the same reason you stated. Who picks the species that stays? Eye of the beholder isn't it?

My feelings exactly , I catch them and enjoy doing so .

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Thank you. You can't imagine how many arguements I've gotten into with trout fishermen who throw smallmouths up on the bank because they might be eating their beloved trout. Don't kill mine, I won't kill yours. (even though yours is an invasive species).

 

Great point, Craig.

 

I am reminded that long ago, when Smallmouth Bass invaded the Landlocked Salmon lakes in northern Maine, traditional guides considered them a bane in their lakes. We do not hear of that much anymore because the resort owners discovered that the Bass were prime gamefish for their guests to pursue$ Going beyond the almighty $, Sportsfishermen should respect all game fish.

 

Rob,

 

Here are my thoughts. We can't make a blanket statement about all cases. I will just consider two scenarios.

 

First, take the average public waters in Illinois. Because I believe that both SMB and LMB are equally desireable, and because I believe that both are overharvested already, I am going to C&R both of them. I think of the Rock Bass as more of a panfish which can take the same level of harvest as Crappie. So, from time to time, I might keep some for a meal.

 

Second, take private waters or waters that have been singled out by a DNR for true "management" or restoration. Since there is some expert input on what to do on these waters, I might go along with removing LMB to improve the SMB fishery. Or vice versa I might release the Rock Bass that would normally go into a meal. The difference here is that I am not going with my amatuer beliefs, I am going with a science based program.

 

Last thought for Craig. I have heard that the Ontario DNR, at least on some waters, recommends releasing all Walleyes and Pike and using Small Mouth Bass for shore lunch. How 'bout that?

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I have spoke nwith Tim about this before and his feeling is don't mess with stuff naturally occuring. That does not proclude eating a couple if you want. I fished in Missouri two years ago. Knowledgable people there were asking that spots be eaten or killed, but not released. What is happening there is traditional good smallie water is being overrun with 9 inch spotted bass.

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I have spoke nwith Tim about this before and his feeling is don't mess with stuff naturally occuring. That does not proclude eating a couple if you want.

 

Yep.

 

Cool topic.

 

I guess when I look at this, my first thoughts are:

 

1. Obey the law.

2. When in doubt, base your values on sustaining the natives.

3. The fishery comes second to the fish. Just because something fights well absolutely doesn't mean it "should" be some place. There are many cases where one fishery wipes out another. If we're wiping out native fish with introduced fisheries...we're doing great, irreparable, inexcusable harm.

 

We've recently had a good discussion about spotted bass here so I won't go back into that much. I don't creel spotted bass on the rivers I fish because they're natives and most of them are well over 12 inches and it's a reasonably good fishery created by sedimentation and poor environmental conditions. If they were all dinks I might take some. Taking a few spots won't help my stream become a better smallmouth stream. Handling the erosion issues upstream will.

 

The Missouri Alliance does indeed have a "spotted bass rodeo" every year on the Meramec River, and has had the regulations there changed in hopes of reducing the numbers of spotted bass in that drainage. They consider spotted bass to be an invasive species in that drainage. It would be interesting to find out how those populations fared over time since that effort began. Some would say the best you can do is reduce the average size of a fish in a population like that, but you can't really get their numbers down. I suspect you can impact their numbers in some cases, but it would probably take a sustained, intense, intentional effort. If that were occurring, I would support what they're doing.

 

In general, I would creel anything non-native and not think twice about it. The only natives I creel are panfish or in places where harvest has very limited potential to do harm (and is legal).

 

The trout we have here in Illinois are not natives, and are stocked for put and take fisheries, I creel them. In their native ranges? No, I would not creel those.

 

Similarly, I would creel smallmouth fisheries that have been exported to sites where they did not occur naturally. Many of those inland lakes in Canada where lake trout occur and smallmouth have been stocked on top of them, have declining populations of lake trout now. Research has shown that the smallmouth and lake trout are in direct competition during the spring months with lake trout while the lake trout are in shallower habitat. Where lake trout and smallmouth bass co-occur the growth and reproduction of lake trout decrease. If smallmouth were encroaching into quality brook trout streams in the Appalachians I might well creel them there.

 

Rock bass? They're native here and similar to pan fish (although relatively slow growing for a pan fish). As a rule, I release them. If I were aching for a shore lunch and I really wanted to creel something, I might take a few. I still don't think I've harvested more than 6 in my whole life.

 

I definitely wouldn't creel rock bass for conservation purposes. The best smallmouth streams I know also have rock bass in them. Taking them out might reduce competition and increase smallmouth bass growth...or it may do something else you didn't expect.

 

That's my take.

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I've taken spots in areas where they are not very common and the smallie fishing is good. I've released them in the same places, the last one (actually it was a friend who caught it) was a fat 19in spot waaaay up a creek. I have tried to slow down the spots that way but not somewhere they are established.

 

I think you are just fishing. If you decide to keep fish that's your business.

 

I usually ski the rock bass in and give them a few choice words, usually accompanied by laughter, as I put them back in the water.

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I think I'm going to catch flak on this as I have with some TOSA members.

 

I practice a very limited select harvest of SMB, LMB, and Spots. I'll have one sandwich annually for one of the previous mentioned. Usually with the grandkids at the annual family reunion campout.

 

Rockies are my choice for flowing water and usually partaken once or twice a season.

 

Harvesting is only practiced to match pressure, population and slot sizes that least adversely impact the specific stream fishery.

 

I enjoy the rare fish sandwich with a future responsible angler. Pass it on!

 

 

 

 

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John, I don't know about the part where the rockies taste like shrimp but I do find them tasty. We catch a ton of them fishing for walleye during the darkness of night in WI every year and so I have not yet kept any here at home to eat. I might just have to keep a few and compare them to their Wisconsin brethren.

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