Bass, spotted

(Micropterus punctulatus)

(Rafinesque, 1819); CENTRARCHIDAE FAMILY; also called Kentucky bass, Kentucky spotted bass, northern spotted bass, Alabama spotted bass, Wichita spotted bass, black bass

There are three recognized subspecies of the spotted bass: the northern spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus punctulatus), the Alabama spotted bass (Micropterus p. henshalli), and the Wichita spotted bass (Micropterus p. wichitae). Spotted bass can be found throughout the central and lower Mississippi basin to the Gulf of Mexico (from Texas to the Florida panhandle), including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and other nearby states where it occurs naturally or has been introduced. The Wichita spotted bass appears to be limited to the West Cache Creek, Oklahoma. The Alabama spotted bass has been introduced into California.

Many anglers who catch a spotted bass believe they have caught a largemouth bass (M salmoides), undoubtedly because the coloration is similar, both having a greenish hue and a broad stripe of diamonds or blotches along the midline of the body. The spotted bass, like all black basses except the largemouth, has scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin, its first and second dorsal fin are clearly connected, and its upper jaw bone does not extend back to or beyond the rear edge of the eyes. The spotted bass is also often confused with the smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu), but it lacks the vertical bars that are present on the sides of the body in the smallmouth. The spotted bass also has small black spots below the lateral line (the rear edges of certain scales are black) unlike either the largemouth or the smallmouth. Juveniles of the species resemble the young of smallmouth bass in having a broad band of orange at the base of the tail, followed by a broad black band and white edge. Because of the difficulty in recognizing the species, it is probable that record size specimens of spotted bass have gone unnoticed.

The smallmouth bass is known to hybridize in nature with the spotted bass, which could make identification of some specimens where both species are known to occur, even more difficult. Where depth permits, it appears that spotted bass usually stay deeper than smallmouths. In one lake in the TVA system in Tennessee, spotted bass have been taken at depths of up to 100 ft (30.4 m). Smallmouth bass, on the other hand, were not caught below 60 ft (18.2 m), and largemouths were always caught right near the surface

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