Smallmouth Bass - Micropterus dolomieu
The smallmouth bass has been called "pound for pound the best fighting game fish alive." Smallmouth are native to eastern central North America but were widely propagated in hatcheries and planted as early as the mid-1800s. They were first transplanted to Horseshoe Lake near Bigfork in 1914 and are still being introduced in selected locations by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Smallmouth bass are primarily a stream fish but are also doing well in reservoirs like Fort Peck and Tongue River where specimens over 5 pounds have been taken. Smallmouth are spring, nest-building spawners. Due to erratic spring weather, nesting failure in Montana is not unusual. Smallmouth bass eat insects, frogs, crayfish, and fish.
Length of longest dorsal spine is less than twice the length of the longest dorsal spine at notch. Young have tricolored tail fin with yellow or orange innermost, a dark vertical band in center, and a whitish outer edge.
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
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(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Tongue River bass show two major movements: spawning migration in April-May & downstream migration in Sept.-Oct.
Prefers clear cool water and rocky substrates in both rivers and lakes. In streams, it prefers riffle areas with clean bottoms. In lakes, it prefers rocky shorelines, reefs, outcroppings, gravel bars, etc.
Feeds on most available item. Fry feed on zooplankton and small mayflies. Adults feed heavily on fish, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates. Seems to prefer crayfish, if available.
Young of year use backwaters as rearing areas. Backwaters and boulder substrates used for resting. 300 cfs recommended for spring migration in Tongue River.
Sexually mature in 4 years. Spawns May-June. Tongue River bass spawn late May in average year when water temperatures exceed 60 degrees F. Spawn in backwater areas, usually over gravel Fry disperse about 2 weeks after hatching.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Musuem of Natural History. 867 p.
- Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Rainbow trout, Kamloops trout, Steelhead trout Salmo gairdneri Richardson. pp. 184-191. In: Freshwater fishes of Canada. Ottawa, Canada: Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Bulletin 184. 966 p.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
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- Duncan, M.B. 2019. Distributions, abundances, and movements of small, nongame fishes in a large Great Plains river network. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 255 p.
- Holton, G.D. 1981. Identification of Montana's most common game and sport fishes. Montana Outdoors May/June reprint. 8 p.
- Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
- Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 1989. Hauser Reservoir fisheries management plan: September 1989-September 1994. 16 p.
- Mullins, M.S. 1991. Biology and predator use of cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
- Penkal, R.F. 1977. Black bass populations of the Tongue River Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 111 p.
- Stash, S.W. 2001. Distribution, relative abundance, and habitat associations of Milk River fishes related to irrigation diversion dams. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 82 p.
- Stringer, A.L. 2018. Status of Northern Pearl Dace and chrosomid dace in prairie streams of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 150 p.
- Sylvester, R. and B. Marotz. 2006. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
- Sylvester, R. and B. Stephens. 2011. Evaluation of the physical and biological effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment upstream and downstream of Libby Dam, Montana. Libby, MT: Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of Energy Bonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00, Contract Nos. 43309 and 48555. 282 p.
- Sylvester, R., A. Steed, J. Tohtz, and B. Marotz. 2008. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
- Sylvester, R.M., J.T. Frye, C.R. Gabreski, M.A. Webb, and H.C. Glassic. 2021. Kootenai River white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus: 2009-2020 investigations in Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for the United States Fish & Wildlife Service Permit TE-210255-2. 87 p.
- Trenka, R.J. 2000. Community structure and habitat associations of fishes of the lower Tongue and Powder Rivers. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 85 p.
- USDI Bureau of Land Management. No date. Fishes of the Miles city, Montana BLM District. Miles City, MT: Miles City BLM District pamphlet. 12 p.
- Wuellner, M.R. 2007. Influence of reach and watershed characteristics on fish distributions in small streams of eastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 80 p.
- Young, B.A., T.L. Welker, M.L. Wildhaber, C.R. Berry, and D. Scarnecchia (eds). 1997. Population structure and habitat use of benthic fishes along the Missouri and Lower Yellowstone Rivers. 1997 Annual report of Missouri River Benthic Fish Study PD-95-5832 to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 207 p.
- Zymonas, N.D. 2006. Age structure, growth, and factors affecting relative abundance of life history forms of Bull Trout in the Clark Fork river drainage, Montana and Idaho. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 142 p.
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