The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bass (fish)

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BASS, the name of various trimly shaped, active, gamy fishes of both fresh and salt water, mostly in northern regions. The term was originally applied to the Morone labrax of the west coast of Europe, and was thence transferred to many other fishes having a real or fancied likeness to this in appearance and qualities. This fish represents the sea-perch family, Serranidæ, is perch-like in form, usually 12 to 18 inches long, and frequents the shoal shore-waters in great numbers, being noted for its fierceness and voracity. Its flesh is excellent. The same family and genus are represented in North America by many species, of which the nearest relative is the yellow bass (M. interrupta) of the southern Mississippi Valley. It is a brassy-yellow with seven very distinct black longitudinal lines, those below the lateral line being interrupted posteriorly, the posterior parts alternating with the anterior. Its body is oblong-ovate with the back much arched. The dorsal fin and anal spines are stout. It is a light fish for its length ordinarily weighing one to two pounds, but often measuring 12 to 18 inches, and weighing five pounds. It is very game, and is esteemed by some anglers the equal of the black bass in this respect.

In the same family falls the well-known striped bass or “rock fish” (Roccus lineatus), of the northeastern Atlantic, which approaches the coast and enters fresh water only at spawning time when it ascends the rivers. It was absent from the Pacific coast until planted there artificially, since which it has multiplied from Puget Sound to Lower California. The largest fish are to be found in Chesapeake Bay, where they average from 30 to 50 pounds in weight, and occasionally reach double that. In color they are brassy-olive, the fins and sides rather pale, and the latter marked with seven or eight blackish stripes. The favorite way of fishing for the striped bass is by casting a “squid” through the surf, using as a bait pieces of clam, shrimp or crab; but they will rise to a fly; and on the Padfic coast are easily lured by a shining spoon-bait.

The white bass (R. chryrops) is a near relative of the striped bass, and inhabits the Great Lakes from the Saint Lawrence to Manitoba, and southward in the Mississippi Valley to Arkansas. Its preference is for still waters, and it is even lighter in weight for length than the yellow bass. It is generally taken with bait, though it will rise to the fly. It is silvery in its color, tinged with golden below, with dusky lines along the sides.

The most important of the American freshwater bass are the black bass — two species of percoid game fishes of the distinctly American family Centrarchidæ, which also contains the various sunfish (q.v.). One is the “big-mouthed” and the other the “small-mouthed” black bass. Both were originally confined to the waters of the upper Mississippi Valley, and Great Lakes region, but in 1853 they were introduced into the head waters of the Potomac River, whence they have spread into all the rivers that empty into Chesapeake Bay. More recently bass have been introduced into New England and into many of the far Western States; as well as transported into England, France, Germany and other countries. The body is oblong, compressed, the back not much elevated, head oblong-conic, lower jaw prominent, teeth on jaws, vomer and platines in broad villiform bands, the inner depressible, usually no teeth or tongue. Black bass vary greatly in size in different waters. The small-mouthed, however, seldom exceeds six pounds in weight, while the large-mouthed, especially in the South, is larger, running as high as 14 pounds. In color both are dull golden-green with a bronze lustre, the scales on the cheeks are more minute than those on the body, and the dorsal fin is deeply notched. In the small-mouthed species (Micropterus dolomieu) the maxillary does not extend beyond the eye, and the scales on the cheek are arranged in 17 rows. In the large-mouthed (M. salmoides) the maxillary extends beyond the eye and there are but 10 rows of scales on the cheeks. The lateral line in both is nearly straight, passing from the upper edge of the gill-cover to the centre of the base of the caudal fin. The small-mouthed has the wider range, extending from the Red River of the North to Texas and Mexico. Both varieties are free, but capricious, biters, and both are game fighters. They are taken with artificial flies such as the “Rube Wood,” “Seth Green,” “silver doctor,” and “Parmachenee bell,” as well as by casting with a wide range of natural baits, such as crayfish, minnows, worms and small frogs; or they may be taken by trolling from a boat, using a stiff rod, especially in lakes, with any standard silver or golden spoon-bait. In some districts the large-mouthed bass is called “straw” bass; in others “slough,” “lake,” “marsh,” or “Oswego” bass, or “green trout,” “welchman,” etc.

Another species deserving mention is the “rock-bass,” one of the sunfish (Ambloplites rupestris), found in practically every lake, pond and stream east of the dry plains. It does not usually attain more than half a pound in weight, is easily caught and is the least persistent fighter of any of the family. In color it is mottled-olive or brassy-green. Consult Henshall, ‘Book of the Bass’ (1889): and Jordan and Evermann, ‘American Food and Game Fishes’ (New York 1902).

Americana 1920 Bass (fish) - bass, bat fish, balloon fish, etc.jpg
1 Bellows Fish (Centriscus scolopax) 4 Balloon Fish (Tetrodon fahaka)
2 Cave Fish (Amblyopsis spelæus) 5 Bat Fish (Malthe vespertilio)
3 Bill Fish (Lepidosteus osseus) 6 Skeleton of a Bass (Perca fluviatilis)