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

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Jan's first Largemouth-caught on Norfork, 5.3 pounds

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are the predominant and most popular sportfish in Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes. Bull Shoals is considered one of the best lunker bass in America. Ten pound plus Largemouths are caught from Bull Shoals every year. In the past few years, electrofishing catch rates for Largemouth have at times exceeded 600 per hour on Bull Shoals Lake and 400 per hour on Norfork. Both lakes produce numerous 6 to 8 pound fish which is very good for the Ozarks. There are currently many Largemouth in the 18 to 20 inch range in both lakes that are the result of the huge year classes produced in the high water years of 1990 and 1991.

Largemouth spawning begins in mid-to-late April when water temperatures reach 62 F and peaks between 65 and 70 F. Normally, they select protected habitat far back in creek arms and coves. They prefer gravel but will also utilize siltier areas than the other two Black bass. As with the other Black bass, the male builds the nest and entices females to it. Largemouth exhibit sexual dimorphism in that mature females tend to be much larger than males of the same age. That apparently does not intimidate the males. There are documented cases where 3 pound males have actually killed uncooperative females in confinement. A typical Largemouth nest contains 5,000 to 10,000 eggs that normally take a week to hatch depending on water temperature. The male protects the eggs and broods the fry for some time after they leave the nest. Largemouth bass fry stay in broods much longer than Spotted or Smallmouth bass fry do. As a result the Largemouth fry suffer tremendous predation after the male departs in situations where cover is limited.

Successful reproduction of Largemouth bass in both reservoirs is dependent primarily on the presence or absence of flooded terrestrial vegetation along the shoreline. If there is a lot of cover, Largemouth reproduction "booms", if not it "busts". Spotted bass do well in low, normal, or high water conditions. Smallmouth do well at low and normal water levels, but not at high levels.