Common Names – No other common names are known. It is sometimes incorrectly identified as a smallmouth bass, redeye bass or a spotted bass.
Description – A heavy-bodied bass seldom exceeding 12 inches long. The most unique characteristic of a mature Suwannee bass is its bright turquoise, blue coloring on the cheeks, breast, and ventral parts. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eye. Also, there is a shallow notch between the dorsal fins with a distinct connection between the spiny and soft-rayed dorsal fins. A pattern of dark vertical blotches occurs along the lateral line. There is generally a distinct dark blotch where the lateral line meets the caudal fin. Scales are present on bases of dorsal, anal and caudal fins.
Subspecies – It is a distinct species with no known subspecies.
Range – Originally restricted to the Suwannee and Ochlockonee River systems of Florida and Georgia. Also occupies spring-fed lower reaches of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers, tributaries of the Suwannee River and the St. Marks and Aucilla/Wacissa systems where it was introduced.
Habitat – Generally prefers more rapidly flowing water along rocky shoal areas but is not restricted to these areas. Also found in large springs and spring runs. The Suwannee bass is designated a “Species of Special Concern” because of its limited range. Degradation of habitat or water quality in the Suwannee and Ochlockonee rivers could threaten this species.
Spawning Habits – Spawning occurs from February to June when water temperatures reach 65 to 68 degrees. Reproduction is similar to the largemouth bass including nest construction.
Feeding Habits – Young fish feed on aquatic insects and small crustaceans. Larger fish feed heavily on crayfish and also take small fishes.
Age and Growth – Suwannee bass are generally smaller than largemouth bass. A two-pound fish is considered large. It seldom exceeds a length of 10 inches or a weight of 12 ounces.
Sporting Qualities – First described as a species in 1949, the Suwannee bass is seldom fished for specifically due to its small size and limited range. For a small fish they are strong fighters when caught on light tackle. Like largemouth bass they will take live baits or artificial lures. Popular lures and baits include small crayfish-colored spinnerbaits, crankbaits, plastic worms, jigs and crayfish. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply, and you can register a qualifying catch as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s “Big Catch” program.
Eating Quality – White, flaky meat with a good flavor and may be prepared like other freshwater bass.
State and World Record – 3 pounds, 14-1/4 ounces caught in the Suwannee River in 1985.
Information Courtesy of MyFWC.com