Shoal Bass – (Micropterus cataractae)
Common Names – shoal bass.
Description – Until October 1999, this species was variously considered to be a redeye bass or subspecies of the redeye bass. James Williams and George Burgess published the official description of the new species in Volume 42, No. 2 of the “Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History,” which was printed on October 8, 1999.
The red color of eyes associates this species with the redeye and Suwannee bass at first glance. However, it is more closely related to the spotted bass morphologically. Shoal bass generally are olive green to nearly black along the back. A dusky dark blotch about 50-67 percent of the size of the eye occurs on the back edge of the gill cover. Three diagonal black lines radiate along the side of the head looking like war paint. 10-15 vertical blotches appear along the sides with tiger-stripes often appearing in between.
The belly is creamy or white and wavy lines may appear slightly above the white belly on the sides. The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are dark olive green to grayish black. Pelvic fins may have a cream colored leading edge with dark spots.
The shoal bass has scales on the base portion of the soft-rayed dorsal fins, clearly connected first and second dorsal fins, and an upper jaw bone that does not extend beyond the eyes.
The shoal bass is the seventh member of the black bass clan; it only recently was given a proper scientific name, Micropterus cataractae. Before acquiring its Linnaean name, the fish had been called the Chipola bass by Dr. Carl Hubbs. Other ichthyologists considered it a variety of redeye. The taxonomic process moves slowly, but anglers on the rivers in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, where this fish is found, have long recognized its special qualities and appreciated its size and its smallmouth like behavior. On Georgia’s Flint River, local anglers call it the “Flint River smallmouth.”
The all-tackle record of 8 pounds, 3 ounces was caught on a section of the Flint near Thomaston, Georgia. Shoal bass also thrive in the Apalachicola and Chipola rivers in Florida, the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers in Georgia, and sections of the Chattahoochee River in Alabama, notably Hallawakee Creek, where the 6-pound, 8-ounce state record was caught in 1993.
Shoal bass occupy a niche similar to that of the smallmouth in northern rivers. Both hold behind current breaks like boulders and snags, in middepth holes, and in tailraces. They disappear from impounded waters. Unfortunately, record-keeping organizations have lumped together the shoal bass and redeye bass, a practice that may have prevented record-sized redeye from being recognized, since they are much smaller than shoal bass.
Subspecies – No known subspecies. Until October 1999 this species was considered to have been a subspecies of the redeye bass.
Range –The shoal bass is common in the Apalachicola, Chipola River where shoals exists. It is also known in the Chattahoochee and Flint river drainages.
Habitat – Shoal bass are closely associated with rock shoals and is uncommon in other habitats.
Spawning Habits – Shoal bass spawn in coarse gravel at the heads of creek pools in April and May, to early June. Prefers spawning temperature of 64 to 73 degrees. Like the largemouth the male prepares the nest and guards the eggs and fry.
Feeding Habits – Shoal bass feed mainly on aquatic insects on the surface. They also feed on larval insects, crayfish and fish.
Age and Growth – Shoal bass grow much faster than redeye bass.
Sporting Quality – Is a good game fish and a scrappy fighter that is often difficult to catch. They can be caught on worms, minnows, or crayfish as well as small spinners and a wide variety of small surface lures. Some have been known to reach more than eight pounds. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply, and you can register a qualifying catch as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s “Big Catch” program.
Eating Quality – Good. Has white, flaky meat and tends to be drier than that of a largemouth.
World Record – 8 pounds, 3 ounces, caught in the Flint River, Georgia in 1977. This fish was a shoal bass but originally reported as the Apalachicola form of redeye bass.
Floridaq State Record – 7 pounds, 13-1/4 ounces, caught in the Apalachicola River in 1989. (Please check link for updates)