Smallmouth bass invading local waters
The introduction of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) into some of the lakes in our region was not done by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), but by some angler or angler(s). Whether they did it intentionally or unintentionally does not really matter. They are here now, and nothing short of a major eradication plan is going to get rid of them.Biologists will tell you that having bass in a trout fishery is probably not a good thing. Smallmouth tend to populate quickly and can and do eat trout fry. They also compete for the same food source as the trout. As a result, the fear is that they could take over a lake where trout are present.Smallmouth bass typically have dark vertical barring present on their sides. In contrast to the largemouth bass, the upper jaw does not extend to the rear margin of the eye and the dorsal fin is not deeply notched.How established are the smallmouth bass? They are in Boca, Prosser, Stampede, Martis Lake and there are even some in the Truckee River. Each year they have become a bigger part of the fishery and we have seen the average size of the fish steadily increase. Fish in excess of five pounds now are no surprise.From an angling perspective, smallmouth bass are one of the premier gamefish to catch. Some anglers say the smallmouth bass are the greatest gamefish on a pound-for-pound basis! Having caught quite a few at these lakes over that past several years, I would certainly agree that they can really pull on the line! I even caught one that we estimated to be around four and a half pounds. At the time I thought I had hooked a large brown trout since it was in the fall near an inlet stream.While the smallmouth bass are considered a warmwater gamefish in California, they do prefer lower temperatures than largemouth bass about 70 degrees. They do best in clear lakes with scant vegetation and rocky shoal areas for spawning and in clear, boulder-strewn streams with large pools. Water temperatures in our area lakes are near optimum for the smallmouth bass. Bass fishing usually takes an upswing in the month of August, just when the trout are finding deeper water. As a result, bass have actually filled a dead spot in the trout fishermans calendar. The month of August is often referred to as the dog days by trout fishermen because fishing slows dramatically during this time.Many local anglers are really enjoying the bass angling during this time of year. Anglers should not lose sight of the threat these fish pose to our trout fishery. While certainly preferable over the Northern Pike, the smallmouth is an illegal introduction that has the potential to do great harm to our trout fishery. We should not lose sight of that fact.In the short-term, they are here and they are providing a great deal of sport in an otherwise pretty slow time of year. Enjoy them. They are a terrific gamefish that can be taken on a variety of tackle, including fly fishing gear.Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.