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Ambloplites rupestris. The rock
bass is a member of the sunfish family, and is characterized by
having a more or less deep, flattened, oblong body, but not
quite as deep as the sunfish, and somewhat thicker than that of
the sunfish or crappie. The dorsal fin consists of two confluent
parts, an anterior part consisting of eleven sharp spines, and a
posterior part of soft rays. There are six spines in the anal
lin. The number of spines in these fins may be used to
distinguish the rock bass from other members of the family.
Coloration may be described as various shades of olive green
with brassy or coppery reflections.
On the tip of each scale, there is a little
black spot which gives the appearance or effect of a
series of stripes the full length of the body. The young are
pale or yellowish green, irregularly barred and blotched with
black. It may be of further interest to note that the iris of
the eye is red, hence the common name, red eye,
which is used in Kentucky and in other states of the middle
west. The mouth is large and well supplied with teeth.
Distribution The rock bass is widely distributed from Manitoba and
the Red River drainage of North Dakota through all the Great
Lakes, north to Lake Abitibi in the east and the English River
in the west, through the St. Lawrence River to Quebec, and to
Lake Champlain, southward, west of the Appalachian Divide to the
Tennessee River drainage to the Ozark region in northern
Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, intergrading in southeastern
Missouri and eastern Arkansas with the Gulf Coast form.
Habitat It is usually found in clear-flowing streams where
there are plenty of rocks, submerged logs or other obstructions
which furnish cover, and in cool, weedy lakes of moderate size.
It is commonly found in the same waters with smallmouth bass and
It travels in schools and congregates about rock situations,
gravel bars and in the vicinity of weed patches and under docks
In nest building, the male fans out sediment
and debris with his fins and scoops out a basin-like depression
(about eight or 10 inches in diameter) with his tail. Nests are
placed near the shore in some gravelly or sandy bar, often in
only a few inches of water which usually flows more swiftly than
that selected by smallmouth bass. ln our latitude spawning
occurs. for the most part, during the month of June when water
temperatures range from 60°F. to 70°F. During the spawning
process, the two fish lie side by side in the nest. Only a few
eggs are extruded at a time and at each period, milt is extruded
by the male. The operations continue for an hour or more and, at
the end of the period, the female leaves the nest and does not
As in other members of the family, the eggs
are adhesive. Females lay an average of 5,000 eggs but as many
as 6,000 to 9,000 have been observed. Females weighing four to
eight ounces lay an average of 3,000 eggs; those weighing eight
to 12 ounces, an average of 5,000 eggs. Sediment settling
on the eggs is avoided by the constant fanning of the fins. Soon
after the eggs are hatched, the fry gradually rise from the nest
and are guarded by the male fish in somewhat the same manner as
the male small mouth and largemouth bass.
Food Aquatic insects, crayfish and small fish constitute the
principal foods of the rock bass. It is usually found in the
same habitat (rocky areas of streams and lakes) with smallmouth
bass and its food does not differ greatly from that of the
latter. It is customary to catch large numbers of rock bass in
June and throughout the summer over rocky reefs, where crayfish
abound. An examination of the rock bass stomachs during this
period will reveal abundant remains of crayfish. When mayfly
hatching is on, rock bass may be seen rising to the surface
until dark. Rock bass are somewhat cannibalistic and will prey
upon their young at times.
The rock bass is a joy to the school boy for
it rarely refuses a bait, even when offered upon the coarsest
tackle. Because of its fighting qualities and its tendencies to
take an artificial lure, it may be classed as a sporting fish.
It bites at any time during the day or night, on live bait or
artificial lures, and it may afford considerable sport with
light tackle. The selection of a suitable live bait should not
present a serious problem because of the variety that may be