Rock Bass

Rock Bass Facts:

Season = All year
Daily possession limit = 15
Size limit = NONE

Science Name: Ambloplites rupestris
Other Names: Goggle-eye, green sunfish, branch perch
Ideal Temp:65-70
World Record: 3 lbs. Ontario
Environment:Lakes, streams, ponds
Techniques: live baiting, fly fishing, small tackle

The rock bass appearance is often described as a cross between a bluegill and a largemouth bass. Its coloring is bronze or olive brown on the back and sides, and whitish on the belly. They have dark spots that form vertical rows on each side. The body is deeper and stouter than most members of the sunfish family. There is a single dorsal fin with 10 to 12 spines and an anal fin with 6 spines. They have large, almost bulging red eyes and a large mouth that extends beyond the middle of the eye.

Hybridization with other sunfish species is very common.

Sporting Qualities:
In most regions, rock bass are not heavily pursued by anglers, yet many fishermen enjoy catching them, mainly because they are not seen as often as the more recognized panfish species. Its meat is white and firm and makes for good eating, although it takes many rock bass to feed a small family. Rock bass are scrappy fighters, but they tire quickly, which makes them perfect for light or ultralight tackle. Because they often travel in schools, anglers frequently catch several in the same location. Rocky areas in shallow to medium depths (between 6 and 12 feet) are common holding areas for rock bass in lakes and ponds, as are gravel beds near flooded timber and stumps. In stream environments, check deep, calm pools along the banks where large rocks are present, deep-water gravel beds where a large weed structure begins, and beneath overhanging limbs and branches along the banks, especially if the water is deeper than 3 feet at the bank.

The green sunfish is a very versatile species, able to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, and tends to do very well when competition with other sunfish is minimal. Its ability to tolerate environmental extremes makes it ideal for survival in prairie streams where conditions are not stable, and it is often the first sunfish species to repopulate depleted areas. Rock bass are found in lakes, streams and ponds of all sizes with cool, clear water. Streams usually have a moderate current and are small to medium in size. Lakes are usually small and weedy, and when large, rock bass live at the outer edges. They are rarely found in large rivers. In both lake and stream environments, they need abundant shelter, mainly because they tend to avoid sunlight. In general, they prefer the same habitat as smallmouth bass. Obviously, they get their name by almost always being found over rocky bottoms, although young rock bass will occupy weedy areas.

Food Habits:
Young rock bass feed on plankton and other small aquatic life, switching to insects and crustaceans as they grow. Rock bass are opportunistic feeders, eating small crustaceans such as crayfish, as well as mollusks, insects, and prey fish, feeding mostly before dawn and after sunset. Rock bass are mainly ambush hunters, hiding among the rocks or other natural structure and darting out to grab any prey that pass by. They will, however, also take insects on the surface, especially in streams.

Spawning Habits:
Green sunfish nest in shallow water colonies where nests are often closely packed. Gravel or rocky bottom sites are usually preferred for nest building. Spawning occurs in late spring, when water temperatures rise above 70F, and may continue throughout the summer. Males aggressively defend their nests for 6-7 days after eggs are deposited, at which time fry are usually free-swimming. Because of their enormous reproductive potential, green sunfish often overpopulate small lakes and ponds. Adults feed on insects and small fish.

Age and Growth:
In established populations, growth of rock bass is generally slow. Rock bass can get quite old up to 15 years or more. On average, a 6 inch (15 cm) rock bass is 4 years old, a 9 inch (22.5 cm ) fish may be 8 years old, and a 10.5 inch rock bass would be approximately 10 years old Growth may vary considerably based on local conditions, and population size.

Tips for Fishing:
Fishing techniques for rock bass are similar to those for sunfish, especially bluegills. Traditionally, rock bass are caught with live baits, such as garden worms, nightcrawlers, and small crayfish and minnows. A popular tactic is simply placing a small worm on a short-shank hook with a few small split shot below a float or bobber, allowing the bait to sit about 6 inches above the bottom. Artificial lures can also attract rock bass, mainly small crankbaits, spinners and plastic or hair-bodied jigs (often tipped with live bait). Fly-fishermen often catch rock bass on small poppers or bugs during low-light periods. Rock bass are relatively easy to catch, and will take a bait at any time of day, though they feed heaviest before sunrise and after sunset, or on overcast days.



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