Lake Norfork-Bull Shoals Lake-White River-North Fork River-Buffalo River-Crooked Creek


Black Bass Exploitation Study.

Black Bass include Largemouth, Spotted, and Smallmouth species.

In April 1994, during our routine spring-time electrofishing sampling and at the Bass Cat bass tournament, we tagged 975 black bass using anchor tags. The tags included a reward notice and our phone number. At the end of one year, the data from tag returns was analyzed and summarized. Anglers reported catching 318 (32.6%) of the tagged fish. Immediately before take-off each flight of the 1996 Bass Cat Invitational Tournament was advised by loudspeaker by a biologist that we wanted the tagged fish reported to weigh-in officials . In spite of this, the anglers did not see 6 of the 17 tags turned in at the weigh-in (we found them ourselves when measuring the fish). Therefore we believe that this and all other tag recapture studies greatly underestimate true catch rates, especially of the released fish. Several anglers reported finding the tag while cleaning the fish. Smallmouth bass appeared somewhat more susceptible to being caught than largemouth and spotted bass (39.7% Vs 30.7 and 30.2%). About 6.6% of all bass were caught on the AGF&C brush shelters; however, during the summer and fall, 13.9% were taken on the attractors. Baxter County anglers caught 51% of all bass caught and made up 46% of all anglers catching fish. Many more fish were caught by Illinois anglers than by anglers from all the U.S. outside Arkansas and Missouri.

Of the fish caught, anglers kept only 39% even though all spotted and smallmouth bass and the vast majority of largemouth bass tagged were above legal limits (15" for largemouth, 12" for the others). Anglers released 55% of all largemouth that were above 15" at the time of tagging. Conversely, anglers reported keeping 17.2% of bass which were less than 14" at tagging and likely illegal when caught (those between 14 and 15" were undersized when tagged but most had probably grown to legal size when caught). Tournament anglers caught 16.9% of bass caught but accounted for only 6.2% of the harvest. Night-time anglers caught 12.9% of all bass but between June 1 and October 1 38% of the bass were caught by night-time anglers. Rewards ranging from $5.00 to $100.00 were issued for 273 tags returned (the remainder of the anglers reported information but chose not to return the tags and claim the reward).

Anglers correctly identified bass 84.5% of the time but still have problems with spotted bass which were correctly identified 66.7% of the time. The only smallmouth x spotted hybrid caught was (surprisingly) identified correctly. Misidentified spotted bass were generally mistaken for largemouths (93% of the time) rather than smallmouths.

Finally, analysis of movement data showed clearly that fish released at their capture site generally stayed there (66.7%) while those displaced were usually caught elsewhere (only 25.4% of that group stayed where released). Fish were caught up to 19 miles from their release site. Bass also showed a clear homing tendency if released 3 miles from the capture site. Forty-five per cent were caught back at their original capture site. Only 12.5% and 6.7% made it home from release sites ranging from 5 to 7 miles and 11 to 12 miles from their capture locations respectively.