The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bass, Culture of

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Edition of 1920. See also Fish hatchery on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

BASS, Culture of. The artificial culture of American bass is of recent growth, owing principally to ignorance of the proper methods. Considerable pond-space is required, certainty that the water is clean and that the temperature is not likely to fall much below 60° F. during the spawning season. Bass will not spawn in water colder than 50°. A good pond an acre in extent ought to yield 50,000 to 75,000 young fish; four or five acres is about the limit in size. Every pond should be of even depth (about three feet) over the greater part, with a deep place (the “kettle”) near the outlet; on the shallow “shelf” the fish will nest and may be hatched and cared for. This main, or “brood” pond, should contain aquatic plants. In addition there should be many separate small shallow “fry ponds” for the segregation and rearing of young fish sorted according to age. Wild stock of the large-mouthed black bass may be caught and introduced at any time of the year; but the small-mouthed breeding-stock (to which most of what is to be said applies) must be introduced only in the autumn. They are then supplied from day to day with minnows and crayfish, and also are gradually accustomed to take chopped beef, liver and lungs or other food, but this artificial feeding must be artfully done or it will not succeed.

Bass lay their eggs in May in saucer-like nests constructed of pebbles on the bottom of ponds. These nests are made and kept clean by the male fish, until he can induce a gravid female to deposit her eggs therein. They are then kept clean and guarded until they hatch. When hatching the young cluster on the nest in a compact mass, but soon begin to rise toward the surface, and at last the male, which has theretofore herded and protected them, drives them into a jungle of water-weeds and abandons them to their fate. They then become the prey not only of every other bass or perch in the pond, but the smaller are killed and eaten by the larger among themselves. Hence very few reach maturity. To avoid this, breeders of small-mouthed bass furnish the pond with a large number of artificial nests, consisting of shallow, open boxes half-filled with sand and pebbles. These are occupied and arranged as nests by the fish. When the fry appear a “crib” consisting of a framework of iron, covered with cheese-cloth, sufficiently large to enclose the nest-box, and tall enough to reach a little above the surface of the water, is set around the nest and firmly anchored. The nexst-box is then lifted out, and the fry left to grow within the crib, safe from molestation. Such cribs are also placed around any natural nests found in the pond. These young fish are fed until they have absorbed the yolk-sac, and then are captured in scoop-nests and transferred to the proper fry-pond. Artificial nests are not used for the hardier and slower large-mouthed bass, but cribs may be placed around their natural nests.

Success in bass-culture depends on a good site and good water for the ponds; but even more on the proper care and feeding of the young. Full directions in both these particulars are to be found in W. E. Meehan's, ‘Fish-Culture in Ponds’ (New York 1913).

Ernest Ingersoll.