Any fishing enthusiast will tell you just how much fun and exciting it is to lure a bass and then reel it in after a good chasing fight. Bass are not only a favorite trophy fish to catch but are an important species of fish in their native habitats. Known for their willingness to chase and bite just about anything that moves in front of their field of vision, large mouth bass are actually much more picky when it comes to spawning. Bass need specific conditions in order to produce a successful new generation of young bass.
The large mouth bass is known scientifically as Micropterus salmoides and can be found as two different subspecies: Northern and Florida. A native to North America, large mouth bass are a freshwater fish that prefers clear water as it performs its hunting for prey visually. Its prey consists of insects, crawfish, smaller fish, and frogs or what ever may cross its path. Adult fish will attain a weight of 3-4 pounds but will grow larger if food and warm temperatures are in abundance.
The signal to spawn begins with an increase of the water temperature of at least 60 degrees F. When this temperature is reached, male bass will begin construction of nests in the sand or mud. Using his fins and tail, a disk-shaped nest is formed. Nests are created in waters that are very clear and still and are at least 2-6 feet deep. The male stops eating and waits for a female who is ready to spawn to come to him. When the fish are ready to spawn, they will circle each other and then stay still side by side. It is at this point when the female will release her eggs at the same time as the male fertilizes them. The eggs collect in the male’s nest and the female leave after the spawing is complete. More than one female may spawn with a male as females do not release all of their eggs during one spawn. After all spawning is over, the male guards the nest and fans off debris that may collect on the eggs with his fins. Depending on the water temperature, the eggs will hatch in 2-4 days as warmer temperatures will speed up the development. After they hatch, the fry will remain with their father for up to 2 weeks. The young fry will eat zooplankton and other small invertebrates. When 2 inches long, young bass are able to start eating small fish.
As with anything in nature, there are many factors that can ruin a bass spawn. Temperature is one of the biggest threats. If the water remains below 60 degrees F, bass will not spawn. Or, if the temperature was just right and then starts to drop after the bass have spawned, the male will abandon the nest and the eggs will be lost to predators. Another issue is with the male himself. Because he does not eat before, during, or after spawning, males will often die from starvation and leave the nest without any protection. Or, when the fry hatch, the male will not be able to resist the plethora of tiny baby fish that are schooling close to his body and will end up eating his own young. Some smaller fish species are able to sneak their way into a nest and eat the eggs while the male is off chasing another fish. All of these factors contribute to the loss in potential future bass.
The process of spawning in bass is fascinating and should not be taken for granted. The difficulty of getting one on the end of a fishing pole does not even compare to the difficulty in creating a successful spawn based on all of the conditions and factors that go into the entire process.