Hook, Line & Thinker: Alabama Bass

by Steve Chaconas

 Finger pointing is rude but, the angler introduction of Alabama bass into Virginia waters, is poking a finger into the eye of the bass fishing community. All due to the ignorance of an angler or two who thought adding a new species would enhance their fishing efforts. Moving fish around, called Johnny Apple Seeding, is illegal and has put us on an unimpeded course to ruin Virginia bass fishing. 

  The sky is falling? Alabama bass are creating imminent danger to Virginia’s largemouth and smallmouth bass fisheries.  Virginia waters are being invaded by a fish that looks like largemouth, swims like largemouth and can be caught like largemouth. 

   Aggressive Alabama bass outcompete largemouth and even smallmouth, and they hybridize with them, diluting gene pools of larger northern bass and can wipe out smallmouth populations. Stunting occurs, resulting in greater abundance of smaller bass. Fisheries are likely to shift from being dominated by 2–3 lb. largemouth or smallmouth bass to being dominated by one pound Alabama bass, resulting in the loss of sportfishing opportunities and the million dollar economic benefit.  

   Destruction of quality largemouth fisheries doesn’t take long! Well known North Carolina lakes, like Norman, saw a decline in largemouth. Lake Chatuagua saw a loss of smallmouth following the introduction of Alabama bass in less than a decade! In Georgia, Alabama bass have hybridized with native Shoal bass and Chattahoochee bass to the point where both populations are endangered and have been labeled by Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources as Species of Special Concern.

  Smallmouth populations in the James River could be decimated with no chance of rebound! While every system is different, outcomes are reliably the same. The effects of an Alabama bass invasion might not be realized initially but don’t take long for the interbreeding process to wipe out preferred largemouth genes at a rapid pace. 

  Unfortunately, DWR is finding Alabama bass in several fisheries, including Lake Gaston, Claytor Lake and the New River, the latter, which many consider to be the best fishery in Virginia for smallmouth bass. Largemouth abundance declines are more likely in lakes that are relatively clear, and which have limited vegetation such as Smith Mountain Lake, Lake Anna, South Holston Reservoir, and Lake Moomaw.

  Making this disaster even more complicated is how difficult it is to identify them. DWR offers a quick differentiation on their website. Alabama bass have been added to the undesirable list, expressly prohibited stocking of spotted bass because of appearance similarities. 

  Maryland is keeping a watchful eye as several of their prized fisheries could have habitat where Alabama bass could flourish and destroy including Deep Creek Lake, Prettyboy, Loch Raven, and Liberty Reservoirs, the nontidal Potomac River and its major tributaries, and some areas of the tidal Chesapeake Bay. 

  Bottom line, anglers must stop stocking any fish. Virginia’s bass fishing future is now compromised, and we will lose our valuable resource due to the selfish and ignorant acts of a few. Don’t be one of them.

  Report any violations immediately! 800-237-5712 or WildCrime@dwr.virginia.gov

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. YouTube video channel NationalBassGuide

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