Aren't all bass the same? What's the difference between a largemouth bass and smallmouth bass? Those are questions that I get a lot from many different people. One of the most important aspects of fishing, not just for bass but for all fish, is understanding your quarry. Both species of bass have their own unique physiology and behavior that, if you can understand, you can exploit to your advantage. These small things can sometimes mean the difference between a day with bass thumb or getting skunked.
Above: Not so much alike....
The most obvious difference between the two species is the mouth. There's a reason why largemouth bass are called "largemouth" and smallmouth bass are called "smallmouth". The jaw of the largemouth bass extends far past the eye, hence the name "largemouth". The jaw of the smallmouth extends to the middle of the eye, hence the name "smallmouth". In the warmer, more fertile waters that largemouth live in, they have a greater range of prey to swallow, and eat on larger, rounder or spinier prey, such as bluegill or catfish. Smallmouth, on the other hand, live in colder, less fertile waters, and have less diversity in their diets. They mostly eat smaller, thinner prey, such as shad, and don't need as large of a mouth to swallow their prey.
The coloration and pattern of the two species is also different. Smallmouth tend to have spotted dark marks across their skin, while largemouth tend to have one solid dark pattern running down their body, but there are always variations. Largemouth also tend to be greenish in color, while smallmouth are usually brownish or a dark yellow.
Habitat is also a way to tell the two species apart. Smallmouth, as mentioned before, live in colder, infertile, faster flowing waters, such as the upper Potomac or the Great Lakes. Most clear, flowing creeks in the US will have a population of smallmouth. Largemouth live in fertile, slow moving, warmer water, such as most farm ponds and town lakes. Of course, there can be a little overlap, especially in larger reservoirs and rivers, with largemouth living in the shallower, calmer waters, and smallmouth living in the deeper or faster flowing sections.
As spring turns into summer, the threat of tick bites gets more and more common. The abundance of tall grass, combined with the natural lifecycle of the tick, causes the warmer months to time that bites are the most frequent. Due to this year's mild winter, the tick population is especially large. As outdoorsmen, we often wade or walk through tall vegetation and dense brush, where ticks latch to wait for unsuspecting victims, making us particularly at risk for bites. Not only are rashes and itching from tick bites annoying, but some ticks are carriers of diseases, some life threatening. So what can you do to avoid ticks?
Above: The specialized anatomy of a tick. wikipedia.org
The thing to do is to avoid dense vegetation. This especially applies to bank fishermen. No matter how good a spot looks, it's not worth potentially putting your life on the line. Avoid meadows, bushes, and hedgerows. By avoiding these areas, you are eliminating the bulk of all potential bites.
However, if you must go through areas of dense brush, wear long sleeves and pants made of thick fabric, such as quality cargo pants. After each trip, inspect your clothing for ticks. You also can apply tick repellents to your clothes and skin.
To remove a tick, first use fine tweezers to grasp the tick near the head, and pull it off steadily. After removing the tick, wash your hands and the bitten area with cleaning alcohol and water. Apply antiseptic to the area. If any unusually rashes appear, or a red "bull-eye" mark, notify a doctor immediately.
Note: This is not an invitation for anyone to go to their local grocery store, steal a bunch of shopping carts, and sink them.
We all know that bass love structure. Fish naturally gravitate towards objects in the water because they contain food or habitat. When we think of structure, we usually think of rocks, logs, or mats of vegetation. But what about shopping carts?
Above: Here's a washed up shopping cart. In many city and suburban ponds, these are a common site. It's more common, though, to snag on one underwater.
You must think that this is a joke or something, but shopping carts actually make great structure for fishing. The baskets provide a platform for algae and other vegetation to grow, which in turn attract small fish and other critters. The presence of prey attracts animals higher up in the food chain, such as snapping turtles, pickerel, and of course, bass. Sticks and other debris get caught on the baskets, too, providing habitat and ambush sites for predators. Shopping carts make great structure. If you go to a pond with shopping carts on a day with clear water, you can see shoals of bluegill darting around, with bass cruising nearby. I have had great success in the past fishing shopping carts, but the key to fishing these snag-fests is to use the right baits and rigs.
Of course, you can take deflecting square bills off of them immediately. The mesh-like baskets have created a lot of open space in my hard-bait box. However, swimming a square bill or a lipless crank bait near some shopping carts isn't a bad idea, especially if you are trying to find where the fish are hiding at.
Above: Small, one acre-ish ponds near shopping centers or large parking lots often have shopping carts. This one here has quite a few of them.
Crawling a worm (ribs and larger profiles are preferred) or lizard on or next to shopping carts is also ideal, and can catch you large numbers of bass (mostly small, though) quickly. However, the way to get the bigger ones is to flip/pitch a larger profiled creature bait, such as a craw, on the cart, especially if you can see lots of vegetation. Make a quiet entrance into the water, and hold on to your rod. The bass hammer them.
A unique situation that I sometimes see in lakes or larger ponds is a shallow area with shopping carts and other structure almost jutting out. These sources of structure almost always are coated with algae, and almost always have bass lurking around. My favorite technique to use in this situation is to throw topwater baits. Work a topwater toad or a buzz bait around the structure to get the reaction bites. Then, finesse a frog or a popper around to get the other fish. This kind of technique works well in the summer. During the spawn, bass often make nests in these flats. Enrage the fish with lizards or craws during that time.
Shopping carts are an interesting, but often forgotten, piece of structure to fish. Don't rule them out the next time you head to an urban/suburban lake.
I've always been a bit of a foodie, and since I love fishing, I often decide to sample the fish that I catch. Fish, by the way, is healthy for you. Fish have less saturated fat than most meats. The unsaturated fats that are found in fish have health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. There also are other substances that are found in fish that reduce cancer risk, and other things.
Above: Creek stew, made from organic garden herbs and creek chub and fall fish. It's almost free to make, and delicious Unfortunately, I forgot the recipe.
Wild fish is free, too, and, if you get it from a clean source, it's clean, too, both physically, and environmentally. Many, many farmed fishes, especially tilapia, are crowded together in near cesspool conditions, and heavy doses of medications are added to in to make sure that the fish survive, and many are extremely unhealthy to humans. Many fish farms are located in countries where fish farming drugs are unregulated - as well as methods of getting fish feed and land for the farm. Many mangrove swamps are destroyed in the tropics for aquaculture. Reefs are robbed of life to create fish food. Just search around. This stuff is well documented, and happens on all the time. I buy locally farmed fishes in good conditions and certified farmed fishes as often as I can, as well as sustainably caught wild fishes.
Anyways, I have caught and eaten many fishes in my life - bass, wild tilapia, bluegill, stocked trout, striped bass, etc. I was curious to see how the creek fish tasted in a creek near my house. It looked safe enough anyways.
I had caught 7 creek chubs/fallfish on garden worms, a hook, and a split shot, and went home. The fish were small, and fillet them would be a waste. I decided to gut them, scale them, and cut them up. I then put them in a simmering soup. The soup was pretty good, and the fish was also pretty tasty. I plan on going back to the creek soon for some more fish.
If you have any questions about fishing, feel free to contact me through the "Contact Us" page. The eMail would be forwarded to me shortly after you send it, and I will reply to your questions.
I remember a day in my childhood. I have always loved to fish, and I often brought home fish to eat. Fried catfish was very tasty, and I often brought home bullhead catfishes - those small catfishes that prowl the bottoms of numerous lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks in Maryland. They seem to be the most common catfish here. I remember taking the fish in the evening, and cleaning and cooking them for dinner. Somehow, however, one of those little buggers managed to slip out of the shallow pen I kept them in, and the next morning, I saw a catfish on my wet garage floor (I had washed it out), half dead, but still alive. I was astonished, and put him in a rain barrel. Within a few hours, he was swimming around again.
Anyone could tell you how hardy catfishes are. It sounds gross, but even after you chop off their heads, they still are squirming. Catfishes tolerate extremely low levels of oxygen, and would taken pollutants that would dispatch a dozen bluegill. They eat virtually everything, and can take extreme overcrowding.
A while back, I was fishing this small pond behind an auto dealership. It was .4 acres at most, and I just so happened to pass it. After some casts, I figured that there were no bass in this pond, and switched to my ultralight spinning combo and worms. Just as my bobber hit the water, however, it sank. I set the hook, and found myself staring at a 4 inch bullhead. After another cast, I landed another bullhead, around the same size. That went on and on. It seemed like there were nothing but bullheads, weeds, insects, and tadpoles in this tiny pond. It received pesticide runoff from the nearby lawns. The pond was shallow and without any tree cover, and I could only guess at how low the oxygen level stooped in the summer. A true testament to the hardiness of the catfish.
On Wednesday, November 10th, 40 students from the CMS Chapter of the YFS visited Piney Run Park in Carroll County, Maryland. They came to Piney Run to study the ecology of large lakes, as well as the ecosystem that surrounds them.
Above: Three students pose for a picture while dip netting.
After a 30 minute drive, the students went into Piney Run Nature Center, where the staff there helped them dip net for small organisms in the water. The students would then learn about organisms after taking them to a high powered microscope for observation.
Top: Students dip net for small fish.
Bottom: Students examine their catch.
Stduents also wade through the water with dip nets. All the organisms caught are recorded.
"This was the favorite part of the trip," says student Azariah Seblu, age 13. "I like catching fish and examining them. I find new things about them almost all the time."
Students also catch small aquatic insects, crayfish, snails, and find some shells. They also gather aquatic plants and rocks to examine later under a microscope.
Below: Seblu (white jacket) wades through the water to dip net.
After dip netting for some time, students go inside the nature center at Piney Run, where, after a short discussion, the staff put the organisms caught by the students on a high powered microscope. The staff then begin to teach the students about the life cycle of the organisms, and their respective roles in the ecosystems of a lake.
Above: Students study about the aquatic insects of Piney Run.
After that, students went into another section of the Piney Run nature center and studied about land animals and reptiles native to Maryland, and the important roles the animals play into the ecosystem at Piney Run. Animals observed include Red Tailed Hawks, Painted Turtles, Corn Snakes, and Eastern Box Turtles.
"It was really interesting looking at the animals at Piney Run," remarks one student I had no idea that land animals could play such important roles in an aquatic ecosystem. I sure learned a lot of facts today!"
Above: Students learn about Red Tailed Hawks.
After that, the students went fishing for Piney Run's native fish species. They have caught and recorded several fish species, including bluegill, yellow perch, green sunfish, and brown bullhead catfish, despite the cold temperature and rainy weather.
Above: Students fishing for native Maryland fish.
Lastl, after an exhausting day of learning and fun, the students pile into the bus and leave Piney Run Park.
"I liked the trip," states student Holden Kim, age 14. "I learned many things, despite the weather. I would definitely go on this trip again!"
Pound by pound, chub are just as good fighters as trout. They might quite well, too. They are much hardier than trout, and are able to be taken on a variety of gear. They can be found in very small bodies of water, and plenty of the local waters. They aren't demanding to fish either - you can go to Walmart and get a good setup for them for less than $25. They take many baits, and are enjoyable to fish. On the left is typical creek chub water.
Rod and reel- A short ultralight rod would do very well. Since chubs are found in streams and small rivers, such as the Middle Patuxent, a rod around 4'6"-5'6" would be great to not hang up on trees and shrubs. An ultralight rod allows you to enjoy the fight, rather than just reel the fish in. Plus, it's lighter, and more sensitive. A small ultralight spinning reel would be great.
Lures - Micro sized jigs, and small soft plastics, such as curly tailed grub, attract the larger chub, which put on a strong fight. They sometimes take small spoons and spinners in the summer, when they are more aggressive. In the colder months, such as fall and spring, using a small presentation, such as floating a jig under a bobber, or spin fishing with flies, is a surefire way to catch chub and sometimes small brown trout.
Above: Student David Elsaesser displays the creek chub he has caught. It was recorded and measured for data, then released.
Line: Good quality monofilament line, 4lb is a good measure, will do. Smaller the pound test, the further an ultralight fishing combo can cast lures. Plus, it's harder to see.
Live bait: Nightcrawlers are a hit with creek chub, and work well for chub of all sizes. Small crayfish on a hook can catch huge chub, and grasshoppers will too.
Terminal tackle: Since you are fishing small waterways, casting distance isn't that important, and just a small bomber, some good hooks, some small spot shot, is all that's needed. In the summer, make sure to wear bug spray. A Hoo Rag, which is a facial covering, works great for fishing in forested areas: It prevents sunburn and bugs from landing on your neck, and protects your face in the cold.
Above: Members of the Clarksville Fisheries Sciences, mark off the sizes of fish caught that morning, their species, other information. Chub fishing is fun, and it's a great way to pass time with friends.
Chub fishing is cheap and fun. It's a good way to get started in fishing, and appreciating our local waterways. In Clarksville, the numerous trails into the woods lead to streams that are full of creek chub. Remember: only leave your footprints. Don't litter, or deface our natural resources.
Above: Creek chub come in a variety of sizes, and are caught on many different baits.
Creek Chub are really undervalued. They fight as well as trout, take many baits, but the large ones are just as elusive as a 25" brown trout. They survive water that trout cannot tolerate, live in the tiniest of the trickles, and are a great thrill to catch. As our trout fisheries are declining from pollution, chub provide a great alternative.
In a world where naturally occurring trout are only found in the coolest, cleanest, and most untouched streams, where the hard core trout fishermen often pay dollars in the 6 digits and more for guided trip in Montana, one can wonder why members of the creek chub family, Semotilus, are so disliked by fly fisherman and others.
Nowadays in Maryland, to catch trout might mean making the drive to the Savage River during the stocking season. Someone without the transportation might not be able to do that. Someone without buying expensive fly fishing gear even can catch chub. Pound for pound, they provide just as much fight as trout, and even more, according to some. Chub are much hardier than trout, and are not as wary as a brown trout, which tolerates much warmer water than it's cousins. Whether it be a curly tailed grub, fly, live worm on a hook, or inline spinner, chub take them all.
They will take spoons, spinners, small soft plastics, streamers, dry flies, and small plastic worms. I have found that fishing with a Trout Magnet, pink color, works very well with them. Ultralight tackle is the key with this fish.
A common problem in Maryland waters is the diatom, Didymosphenia geminata. A serious pest in Australia, Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand, and is causing massive damage to Maryland streams and rivers.
The stalks of this diatom attaches to rocks, plants, or other submerged surfaces. At the time the diatom cell divides, through vegetative reproduction, the stalk divides too, eventually forming a mass of branching stalks. The nuisance build-up is not the cell itself, but their massive production of extracellular stalks. Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) that form the stalks are made primarily of polysaccharides and protein, forming complex, multi-layered structures that are resistant to degradation.
First seen in the Gunpowder River in Maryland, it has now spread to the Save River and branching areas. By the massive build up of stalks, didymo smothers trout spawning beds, plant life, insects that are a food source, clogging up waterways, choking out sunlight and nutrients, and being very unsightly. The problem has even caused the authorities of New Zealand, one of the best trout waters in the world, to ban felt soled waders, which may spread the diatom. Now, didymo is coming closer to America's most pristine trout streams.
What can be done?
To prevent the spread of this serious pest, make sure to wash all waders, boats, and anything that touched the water with a salt - water mix. Make sure to tell other fisherman and swimmers about this threat. If it is not stopped, the government, which is already considering some things, may ban some of our equipment or make access much harder. Plus, you need to your gear after trips anyways. Just all some salt or bleach to the mix. Fish responsibly!
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.