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Spotted Bass


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Micropterus punctulatus

CHARACTERISTICS: Also known as Kentucky bass, the spotted bass is a slender fish with black blotches along the middle of the body; with age, these join to form an irregular band. Hubbs and Bailey (1940) recognize two subspecies in Alabama. Micropterus punctulatus punctulatus occurs in the Tennessee River and has 58 to 71 lateral line scales and 22 to 27 scales around the caudal peduncle. Micropterus p. henshalli is limited to the upper Mobile basin and has 68 to 77 lateral line scales and 26 to 29 caudal peduncle scales. Intergrades are distributed below the Fall Line in the Mobile basin. In 2008, Baker et al. elevated Micropterus p. henshalli to species status, M. henshalli, with the common name of Alabama bass.  Both species and their intergrades have a large mouth, the upper jaw extending almost to the rear margin of the eye. A rectangular tooth patch on the tongue distinguishes these species from largemouth bass. The dorsal fin has nine to 11 (usually 10) spines and 11 to 13 rays that are broadly joined. The anal fin has three spines and nine to 11 rays. The body is olive green on the back with scattered dark mottling. The sides below the lateral blotches are light gray; many scales have dark spots forming horizontal rows. The venter is white. Juveniles have a black spot in the middle of the caudal fin base bordered by bright orange areas. The eyes are usually reddish but not as bright as those of redeye bass.

ADULT SIZE: 12 to 17 in (300 to 432 mm). The state and former world angling record (8 lb, 15 oz) was caught from Lake Lewis Smith on March 18, 1978. Prior records include: a 7 lbs. 0 oz. record by Edward Simrell on Jan. 24, 1965; an 8 lbs., 8 oz. record by Wreford James on May 23, 1968; an 8 lbs. 10 oz catch on Feb. 25, 1972 by Billy Henderson.

DISTRIBUTION: Spotted bass are native throughout Alabama with the possible exception of the Apalachicola River Basin. The U.S. map on the facing page reflects the native and introduced range of the species, but excludes introductions of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Spotted bass usually occur around aquatic vegetation, submerged logs, and rock or riprap walls in small to large flowing streams, rivers, and reservoirs. Spawning occurs in April and May, often in the mouths of tributary streams. The male guards the nest until the fry have hatched. Food items include small fishes, crayfishes, and aquatic insects. Gilbert (1973) reports that M. henshalli grows faster than M. punctulatus. Life spans of southeastern populations vary from four to seven years.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Rafinesque described the spotted bass in 1819.

Micropterus means small fin.
Punctulatus means dotted.

The copyrighted information above is modified from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call spotted bass: Kentucky bass and lineside, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2). Alabama anglers frequently refer to them simply as spots.

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move a bass or any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

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