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Stay At Home Smallies


Terry Dodge
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I have read that the smallmouth bass is a homebody. It picks an area

and never strays too far from home. Does this sound right? I've always

figured that fish just swim all over the place. I mean what else do they

have to do besides eat. huh.gif

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Guest rich mc

it has been proven that they migrate , providing that dams are not in the way. in wisc and minn they tracked then traveling over 50 miles to wintering holes. my guess there still are some home bodies that stick around. rich

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Most fish I catch in winter don't move more than a half mile to winter habitat. Very often far less than that. They vacate water that would not offer them respite from current in high water times and where they could remain invisible from above in clear winter water. Depth doesn't matter as much if there is cover and food.

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Guest airbornemike

Depends on the size of the river and as Bill pointed out, whats in it. Biologist have tracked tagged fish many miles through out a season and it is widely believed that smallies are nearly migratory in larger river systems, and certainly so when they spawn in the spring. Look at your modern day structure fishing theory, both largemouth, smallies and other game fish follow known routes in large lakes and resevoirs to forage.

 

I know they move extensivley here in the lower fox, thats a big part of the game being able to first find were the fish are, especially in a larger system.

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A lot of the early research on smallie movements found that they don't move much out of their home pools, at least during the summer months. Some of the more recent work using radio-tagged fish has found that some populations do indeed make long-distance movements during spring and fall. One of the current hypotheses is that populations in more southern latitudes are able to remain in the same areas year-round, but smallies up north where the winters are long and nasty have to migrate to deep low-current areas to make it through the winter months. Of course, this probably varies from river to river, depending on how far away the deepest pools are from the areas where the fish spend their summers. During my Master's research, I found most of the smallies in the Fox stay in the same general areas year-round, but about 20 percent make downstream movements to spend the winters upstream of the dams. Not sure why some stay and others go. It doesn't seem to depend on the size of the fish.

 

-SB

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I read tons of fishing magazines and books during the winter when I don't fish. I do remember reading a In-Fisherman report when they tracked a smallmouth migrating 50 miles during a season. I've also read a book called Fish Sylvania which describes fishing in deep clear northwoods lakes. They claim that smallmouth can be homebodies spawning in the same locations and living their entire life in a small area. Especially if that area has access to everything they need over the coarse of a season.

 

From what I've read and seen this makes sense. I've seen river smallies migrate up small tributaries to spawn in the spring in good numbers. These same tribs will be almost completely void of smallmouth by late summer. The water will be low and clear enough to see that they are gone. It's not that I just couldn't catch them. I've also been up to Sylvania for about 7 years at the same time of year every year. Good smallmouth locations are very consistant from year to year.

 

So to answer your question, I would generally say rivers no, lakes yes. I suppose if a river section has close access to everything a smallmouth would need throughout a season that they could be homebodies in a small area of river. It would have to have access to deep water, areas with sand/gravel mix for spawning, current breaks during high water, and a good year round food supply.

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From what I have observed the past 20 years or so is that if a river smallie has food and feels secure where he is at, he will stay. Now, of course, this changes as the seasons progress and the river levels rise and fall. Just like humans, food and security rules the lives of smallmouths as well.

 

Now, when it comes to fall migrations, it really depends on the river. Like Brendan said, in many Midwestern streams, smallies don't have to move far to find a deep, slow, wintering "hole". But some rivers really don't have classic deep wintering areas. In rivers like these, I am fairly certain that the smallies tend to migrate farther downstream in search of what they are looking for. I think alot of where smallies migrate to spend the winters is programmed into them genetically. I am sure that many of the smallies I catch in the Mack during the winter are probably some of the same fish I caught in previous winters.

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