Arkansas Ozarks Fishing-Bull Shoals-White River-Norfork Lake-Buffalo-North Fork

get lodging & fishing information

Arkansas Ozark Bass Species
by Mark Oliver, Fisheries Biologist, District 2, AG&R

Black Bass Family - Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass

In Arkansas this group, which is part of the Sunfish or Centrarchid Family, are called Black Bass because the fry of all three species are black. All three are represented in good proportion in Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork. They are the most popular sport fish on these waters.

On the basis of fish sampling and tournament information collected over a period of years, Largemouth make up approximately 60%, Spotteds 25%, and Smallmouth 15% of the Black Bass in Bull Shoals Lake. Smallmouth make up less than 10% of the Black Bass in Lake Norfork. Until recently, the Smallmouth populations in both Bull Shoals and Lake Norfork were expanding. After several years of high water spring seasons (which benefits Largemouth and Spotted bass reproduction and can have negative impacts on Smallmouth spawns) and the 1992 increase in the minimum length limit on Largemouth (from 12 to 15 inches) which resulted in redirected consumptive harvest of Smallmouth and Spotted bass (which both still have a 12 inch minimum length limit), Smallmouth appear to be on the decline in both Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork. However, Smallmouth fishing remains excellent in area streams such as Crooked Creek.

Because there are species specific minimum length limits for Black bass on Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes, anglers have had to be able to distinguish the species to avoid fines. Smallmouth are usually easy to differentiate because of their bronze color and prominent vertical bars. Largemouth and Spotted bass, however, closely resemble each other. The following table will help distinguish these two species in Bull Shoals and Lake Norfork:

Smallmouth Bass

Largemouth Bass

Spotted Bass

White Bass

Striped Bass

Hybrid Bass