Living Sanibel: Largemouth bass most popular freshwater game fish in U.S.
It is not uncommon to land a five-pound largemouth on the islands, and there have even been reports of bass in excess of 10 pounds being landed. This is especially true for some of the older, larger bodies of water such as Lake Murex and the ponds and freshwater canals surrounding both the East and West Rocks subdivisions. The Sanibel River also harbors some monster largemouths.
The largemouth bass is the most popular freshwater game fish in the U.S. While some northern states may focus on muskellunge, walleye, and northern pike, the rest of the nation, from California through the entire south, targets the largemouth bass. More money is spent on lures, minnows, and fishing tackle to catch bass than any other freshwater species. Professional bass fishermen enter contests with prizes into the six figures
The largemouth will readily take spinners, flies, and live baits, and is a handful once hooked. This prize fighter jumps as readily as any snook, tangles the line around deadfalls and underwater obstructions, runs long and hard, and has earned its solid reputation as America’s premier freshwater game fish. It is also regarded as an excellent eating fish, though it can have an earthy taste when taken from muddy ponds.
The bass is a consummate predator. It eats crayfish, frogs, insects, and small fish. It is also cannibalistic and will prey upon its own offspring. Larger fish have been observed eating small turtles, baby ducks, and adult redwing blackbirds that aren’t paying attention. In turn, the largemouth bass is taken by everything. Smaller fish are preyed upon by herons, bitterns, and kingfishers, while the larger fish fall victim to alligators, great blue herons, and ospreys.
To find bass on the islands look for the clear, circular sandy bedding areas it fans out for spawning season. If the water is clear, then the bass is not far away. A freshwater fishing license is required to fish bass on Sanibel and Captiva, and freshwater slot and take limits apply. Go to myfwc.com/RULESANDREGS/Freshwater_FishRules for additional information.
This is an excerpt from Living Sanibel – A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.