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Do Big Smallies Move About / or Stay Put

jeff b.

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I am wondering about the behavior of larger smallmouth. How they set up a home, if they stay there a long time or keep on the move. For instance, I hear how large Brown Trout tend to stay in the same roost for a long time... as a result sometimes get caught more than once by the same fisherman (having solitary knowledge of the honey hole) and the fisherman get on a first name basis with his own brute brownie trout.


I discovered a secret honey hole late this fall and there is a dragonish bronzeback that was shacking up there...I had him on for a heck of a fight but then lost him... I went back and there think the same guy swiped at me again then laughed at me. I can't stop thinking about going back there again early next spring.

What are the odds he will still be there? Or will he have moved on? Will he come back?

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I would go back every warm day or better yet every chance you have until you catch her then leave her alone for a month and try again. I suspect she has everything she needs in her little piece of the world and won't go far.

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Personnaly, I feel that if a big smallie was left alone and not pressured he would stay in a small area.

I used to have a few "honey holes" that always produced some big fish and I'd return to those spots once every couple of weeks. Now I rarely if ever catch a big fish from those same holes.

Either someone else caught and kept those fish, they just got wise and learned to avoid a big wading fisherman or they moved to a new safer spot. I'll never know for sure.

On a natural lake I fish, we caught the same fish from the same spot at least 3 years in a row (he only had one eye). But we only hit that spot once a year.

There was another good sized bass with a deformed upper mouth that had been caught and photographed at least 3 times in a local river from 3 different spots at least a mile apart within weeks of each other.

So to answer your question, maybe he'll stay, maybe he'll move.

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A local stream was killed out by an ammonia release from the U of I. Every fish in the river downstream of the waste treatment plant was wiped out for miles and miles (except for the ones that managed to get away into adjoining streams). A fellow I know managed property on this stream and had caught a 20" smallmouth severalt times out of a particular hole on the stream. During the kill, the smallmouth disappeared. The next year, a 20" fish was back in the hole.


Same one? Don't know. But the point is that quality habitat attracts quality fish. Even if they are reshuffling over time, something big is likely to be in that spot until something or someone removes it.


I bet there is some data out there about this.

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  • 1 month later...

An article in In Fisherman a few years back did a study on a mid sized stream in Wisconsin. They tagged a dozen smallies and watched the migration of all 12.


If i remember right 4 stayed within a quarter mile of their original spot over the winter months, 3-4 moved nearly ten miles and a few migrated over 50 miles but almost all of them returned back to their original spot in the spring.

Do they migrate,Yes. How far? From what this test showed a lot further then i would have imagined. Im sure it's different on every body of water also.

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