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Fishing: Know the Breeds You're Catching

Apr 9, 2008
Surprising as it may seem, many fishermen can't specifically name the fish they catch. They will say, "it looks like a perch" or "it's a bass" - but whether it's a largemouth or a smallmouth bass is beyond them.

Part of the difficulty in identifying a fish is that there has been considerable confusion in establishing names common to all parts of the country. In some parts a black crappie is called a calico bass; a lake trout is a togue; a largemouth bass, a trout; a walleye, a blue pike; a brook trout, a squaretail.

To clarify this problem, the Outdoor Writers Association of America has formulated a list of common names of American sport fish in which one name, and one name only, has been assigned to each species. Through this standardization the Association hopes to give anglers throughout the country a common terminology, at least as far as the names of their catches are concerned. Other forms of fishing conversation are now, and always will be, beyond control.

To identify the various fish more completely, I have included the scientific name of each, assigned according to the international rules of scientific nomenclature and applied only to one specific fish. The first name is the genus or family name and the second name is the species; at times there is a third name which indicates a sub-species.

Here are two of the more popular game fish found in our country. After reading the descriptions, you shouldn't have any difficulty in distinguishing a largemouth from a smallmouth bass or a white perch from a yellow perch.

Fresh-Water Species

Bass, Largemouth (Micropterus salmoides) Also called "bronzeback" and "bigmouth" locally. range: Now found in every state. Within this century has been introduced into German, French, Spanish, and South African waters. Abundant in United States southern waters. characteristics: Color influenced by color of surroundings, but generally is dark green on back, shading into lighter green on lower sides, with green-silver or yellow-white on belly.

Usually a black line or strip of spots runs along sides from top of gills to middle of tail. Often confused with the smallmouth, it can be readily distinguished because jaw joint extends beyond the eye when the mouth is closed. (On smallmouth it ends directly beneath the eye.)

Cheek of largemouth has 9 to 12 oblique rows of scales. Smallmouth always has more than 12, usually 14 to 18 rows. Pugnacious, its evil temper is often its downfall. Average size, 1 to 3 pounds. Record, 22 pounds, 4 ounces. habits: Slow-moving streams and lakes with lily pads and weed beds are preferred.

food: Worms, insects, frogs, crayfish, minnows, mice, etc. lures: Wet and dry flies, bass bugs, sinking, floating and diving plugs; also spoons, spinners, bucktails, pork-rind lures.

Perch, White (Morone americana) The white perch is a member of the bass family, rather than the perch family, and is one of the larger panfish. Often called silver bass or silver perch. range: From Nova Scotia to South Carolina and east of the Alleghenies.

characteristics: Sides are brilliant silver, often with a green cast on back and pale streaks along sides. It has a smaller mouth in porportion to its size than either the white or yellow bass, has no teeth on the base of its tongue.

Average size, 1/2 to 1 pound. Record, 4 pounds, 12 ounces.

habits: A school fish, also anadromous. (Equally at home in fresh or salt water, but makes migrations from salt to fresh water for spawning purposes.) They often become landlocked but thrive nevertheless. Prefer brackish water in deep holes.

food: In fresh water, white perch feed on insects, minnows, worms, and crustaceans; in salt water, small eels, crabs, shrimp and minnows, also spawn of other fish. lures: Spinners, bucktails, flies, spinner and fly combinations; also worms, small minows.

It would be worthwhile to make a study of more fish so you can distinguish them from other types.
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