Smallmouth Bass

The King of the Kings. Pound per pound smallmouth bass are a tough fighting fish. When catching a smallmouth, it’s not unusual for it to leap and try to shake the hook out of its mouth. If that doesn’t work, they dive hard to the bottom for some kind of structure, log or rock. A never quit fish that will fight you all the way to the shore or boat. When measured for pure tenacity and heart, the smallmouth swims alone. The smallmouth bass is a species of freshwater fish in the sunfish family. Sometimes called a brownie, bronze back, smallie, brown bass, or green trout. It is generally brown, appearing sometimes as black or green with red eyes, and dark brown vertical bands, rather than a horizontal band along the side. A very distinct feature of “war paint” lines extend from both sides from the nose of this warrior fish. There are 13–15 soft rays in the dorsal fin. The upper jaw of smallmouth bass extends to the middle of the eye which differentiates it from the largemouth bass. The smallmouth’s coloration and hue may vary according to environmental variables such as water clarity or prey diet. This clever bass thrives in clear, gravel-bottom runs and free flowing pools of small to large rivers. Males are generally smaller than females. The males tend to range around two pounds, while females can range from three to six pounds. Their average sizes can differ, depending on where they are found. Those found in American waters tend to be larger due to the longer summers, which allow them to eat and grow for a longer period of time. Smallmouth bass have an incredibly wide field of vision (180 degrees). They can see prey or potential danger from many angles and is a tremendous advantage that they utilize. In clear water, they can see up to 40 feet away.

Their habitat plays a significant role in their color, weight, and shape. River water smallmouth that live in dark water tend to be rather torpedo-shaped and very dark brown to be more efficient for feeding. Lakeside smallmouth bass that live in sandy areas, tend to be a light yellow-brown to adapt to the environment in a defensive state and are more oval-shaped.

They have been seen eating tadpoles, fish, aquatic insects, crayfish, anything that they could swallow, they will. They have been seen eating frogs, small mice, and small birds. Due to the shallowness of the water which cause water temperatures to fluctuate, smallmouth bass usually spawn in early April and can extend into May. Using their tail, smallmouth sweep their nesting areas clear of debris before the female lays her eggs. They prefer a clean gravel bottom to lay over 2,000 eggs. It is the male that builds and guards the nest. Once the eggs hatch after 5-7 days, the job of the male is over. He has now developed a ferocious appetite and will vigorously attack most any bait thrown his way. This post spawn period is an excellent time for fisherman. These fish are very fast growers. Freshly hatched smallmouth feed on zooplankton and other microscopic animals in the water. Once they are an inch or two they switch their diet to mainly insects or tiny crawfish and some baitfish. Good mineral content, clean water, plentiful food sources, excellent habitat and extended growing seasons can produce very large fish up to 5lbs. The Kings River has all of these variables to grow trophy size bass.

Spotted Bass

Also known as a Kentucky Bass. Not near as dominant as the smallmouth bass in terms of numbers, the Spotted Bass can get just as large and fight almost as hard. Often mistaken for the Largemouth Bass. They are usually found in calm deep pools next to tree roots. Their diet is very similar to a smallmouth and can be caught with live minnows, crawfish, lures and flies. A very beautiful fish with jaw line that does not extend past the eye. The back is dark olive and the sides are yellowish. It has a dark lateral band with rows of black spots beneath. Spotted Bass inhabit areas that are too warm, turbid, and sluggish for smallmouth bass. Like the smallmouth bass, the female will fan and clear a nest and lay close to 2,000 eggs while the male will guard the nest. Spotted Bass are likely to be found in groups, which provides the opportunity to catch more than one in a given place. River fishing techniques are pretty much the same as those used for smallmouth and they will also have a voracious appetite after the spawn.

Spotted Gar

The Spotted Gar has a short snout with one row of teeth and a long cylindrical body. It’s brown on the top and is a little lighter on the sides. This intimidating looking fish has a white belly and the entire body and fins are spotted. It has very thick scales. Spotted Gar have a large mouth packed with sharp, pointed teeth. They are generally sluggish fish but are capable of impressive bursts of speed. They usually drift motionless near the surface waiting for smaller fish to swim by. When prey approaches, they whip their heads around and snare their victim, often sideways, then turn it to swallow headfirst.
One of the reasons they’ve survived as long as they have is their ability to thrive in even the most inhospitable, murky, low oxygen waters. They have a swim bladder that they can fill by gulping air which they use to supplement their gill breathing in low-oxygen environments. You can often see them surface to refill with air. The Gar spawn in shallow water in the spring. Usually late April. The adhesive eggs are scattered all over the substrate and sometimes buried in it. Neither the male or female protect the eggs once they are spawned. Different techniques can be used to catch a gar such as a shiny spinner bait or even small perch. Gar are edible but very bony. It’s important to note that gar eggs are NOT edible and are toxic to humans.

Channel Catfish

This elusive, strong and adaptable fish has a flat wide head while the upper jaw is just past the lower jaw. It has a bluish gray back and the belly is white. Its sides are silvery with black or olive spots that lessen with age. No scales are present and it has a set of whiskers near its mouth. The Channel Catfish is found in moderate flowing rivers and creeks. They can be found in deep pools with large rocks, logs and also overhanging banks that protect themselves during the day. They normally leave their safe spots at night to feed. It is a ferocious fighter when first caught but will fade quickly. They can be caught on chicken liver, worms, crawdads, live minnows and jigs. A very tough and heat tolerant fish that can survive temperatures up to 93*F.  Channel catfish spawn from May to June when temperatures reach about 80*F. They lay their eggs in holes or cavities found in a undercut bank, underneath a large rock or hollowed submerged log. The males will build the nest and protect the young fry until they leave the nest.

Ozark Bass

The Ozark Bass is a species of freshwater fish in the sunfish family and is often mistaken for a very closely related Rock Bass. It is native ONLY to the White River area of Missouri and Arkansas and nowhere else in the world. It has a very large mouth, red eyes and scaled cheeks. The sides are irregularly freckled. It can grow up to 10″. The males build nests on gravel substrate and they begin to spawn when temperatures reach 62*F. They can be caught on the Kings River using live minnows, crawdads, hellgrammites and small jigs or crank baits. Ozark Bass are usually found in slow moving pools with large rocks or cover.

Longear Sunfish

This beautiful but small and colorful sunfish has a moderately small mouth with a wavy line on the cheek and the upper jaw not extending past middle of the eye. It can be identified with a long black “ear” flap rimmed red or white. It has a green or blue-green back. It has olive sides splattered with yellow and blue-green spots. The belly is yellow or burnt orange. It has short round pectoral fins. You can find these fish in slower pools with rocky bottoms. They grow to about 9 inches long. It’s food consists mainly of aquatic and terrestrial insects as well as live minnows, worms, small crayfish, spinners or poppers. Spawning occurs from May to August when water exceeds 75*F. The males constructs circular depression nests close together. The male courts the female by swimming around and above her and displaying his bright red-orange belly. The male may spawn with many different mates. The male will aggressively guard the nest until the fry become free-swimming.

Green Sunfish

The Green Sunfish has a very large mouth compared to other sunfish. It has an elongated blue-green body. It has a pale green belly with dots in rows on the sides and also with black dots on anal and dorsal fins. It is sometimes called a black perch or shade perch. They can grow up to 10″ in length and reach a pound in weight but most are around 4-8 ounces. They are found mainly next to logs, root balls or other thick weedy cover near the bank. They have a very large mouth and like to eat worms, live minnows, and crawfish. A very aggressive and strong fighting fish that can also be caught on artificial baits such as spinners, poppers and streamers. They are usually caught by accident by anglers seeking other game fish. Green sunfish begin spawning in the summer. The males create nests in shallow water by clearing depressions in the bottom near a type of shelter such as rocks or submerged logs. They will often nest next to other Sunfish species causing hybridization. The male aggressively defends his nest from other males using visual displays and physical force when necessary. The female will lay over 2,000 eggs and leave them for the male to guard. He keeps watch over them until they hatch in three to five days, while protecting them and fanning them with his fins, keeping them clean and providing them with oxygenated water. After the eggs hatch and the fry become free swimming, the male will court another female to lay eggs in the same nest.