Fish Facts: Smallmouth Bass

Stream Smallmouth Bass Fishing Heating UpThe smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) goes by many nicknames—smallie, bronzeback, brownie, and brown bass, to name a few—which is a sign of its popularity in different parts of the country. It’s the most trout–like bass, in that it often lives in clean, cold rivers and feeds on insects, baitfish, and crayfish. For these reasons, even the most rigid trout snobs, who wouldn’t deign to cast to a largemouth or a panfish on a farm pond, will tie on a slider to tempt smallmouths to the surface. However, where the bass are encroaching on traditional trout water, often as a result of “bucket biology,” they are often viewed as an unwanted nuisance species.

Range and Life History
The original range of the smallmouth bass included the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway drainages—stretching from southern Quebec and New Hampshire to North Dakota—as well as the Mississippi River drainage as far south as Alabama. There were also native populations in the lower Hudson Bay basin. Smallmouths shared much of their range with largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides); the two can coexist, but smallmouths generally prefer clearer, cooler water.

The construction of the Erie Canal in 1825 allowed the species to spread into central New York, and throughout the 19th century, smallmouths were stocked across the country, all the way to California. On many traditional trout-and-salmon rivers dams had caused the water to warm, and smallmouths were often stocked to replaced extinct coldwater game fish.

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