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Lake sturgeon
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Ontario Bass Fishing

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White Bass

Roccus chrysops

A look at the white bass shows that the body is deep. The back is silvery green in colour, shading to silvery white on the sides, and golden below. There are a number of dusky. more or less interrupted, horizontal lines on the sides of the body. The small, somewhat conical head is depressed over the eye, which is tinted yellow or golden; hence, the specific name, chrysops-gold eye, referring to the golden hue of the iris. The careful observer will note the two prominent dorsal fins on the arched back. The first or spinous dorsal fn is distinctly separated from the second or soft dorsal. This serves to distinguish the white bass from the members of the sunfish family (Cenrrarchidae), e.g., rock bass, sunfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappies and bluegills in which the dorsal fins are not separated. The jaws, tongue and certain other parts of the mouth are supplied with numerous brush-like teeth.

The white bass frequents the larger rivers and lakes of northwestern New York, southern Ontario and Michigan to Minnesota, southward in the Mississippi Valley to Alabama and Texas. Generally, it occurs in the Mississippi and Great Lakes drainage with the exception of Lake Superior. In Ontario it occurs in the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the Detroit River. It also occurs in Lake Nipissing, but it is generally rare north of the Great Lakes.

Throughout its natural range, the white bass frequents clear, cool water of moderate depth over rock reefs, sand bars and submerged rock jetties. It shows some preference for running water, below dams, locks, and the mouths of tributary streams.

It is reported to have increased greatly in numbers, following the construction of a series of impoundments on the Tennessee River.

Although it commonly frequents a clear, cool habitat in the northern part of its range, it becomes more numerous in warmer and somewhat turbid waters in the southern part of its range.

The white bass is essentially a fish of larger rivers and lakes. It travels in large schools near the surface of the open waters in June, July and August, and has been taken frequently on quiet shores or near the surface on the windward side of the lake. lt shows semi migratory habits and enters tributaries of lakes or tailwaters in large schools.

Normally, white bass have an annual reproductive cycle and all healthy, sexually mature fish reproduce at age group II; the males ripen in the fall and the females at spawning time the following spring, usually in late May or early June. Males are smaller than the females and migrate to the spawning grounds first, where they remain until the conditions of the environment cause the females to join them. Recorded observations show that spawning takes place during the day, near shore, in water three to six feet deep, on gravel, sand, rubble or rock bottom. Spawning temperatures range from 58°F. to 75°F. Because of the successful reproduction of white bass in reservoirs. it would seem that spawning runs into tributary streams are not always necessary.

The eggs and sperm are scattered simultaneously over the spawning grounds near the surface or in midwater where fertilization takes place as the eggs sink and finally adhere to rocks on the bottom. The spawning period may last five to ten days and the incubation period a few days.

White bass have a tremendous reproductive capacity; the number of eggs per fish ranges from 241,000 to 933,000; the average is 565,000. A measure of the average diameter of 100 eggs was found to be approximately 0.81 mm.  After spawning, the white bass return to deeper water.

Food and Growth
Young white bass feed on plankton, aquatic insects and crayfish. Adults have been observed to feed extensively on the emerald shiner in the spring and on gizzard shad in the fall. Fish remains, noted in their diet, were those of small perch, bluegill, crappie, black bullhead and game fish in small numbers. Though fish seem to be preferred by adults, aquatic insects, plankton and crayfish are also eaten in large amounts.

White bass grow rapidly the first year, attaining a length of four to live inches by autumn; the second year, seven to eight inches; and the third year, eleven to thirteen inches. Their life span is short, few survive beyond the fourth or fifth year. 


Ontario Fishing Magazine