These are exciting times for fish nerds like myself. In March it was published in Lake Magazine that four new species of redeye bass have been discovered. I say “discovered”, but it’s more like “recognized”. They’ve always been there, people had always fished for them, but no one really knew they were genetically divergent from the Coosa strain redeye bass.
The same is true for the newly described Choctaw Bass. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced on May 7th that the spotted bass that inhabit the streams of the Florida panhandle are actually an entirely different species, though they are almost identical in appearance. They offer the name Choctaw Bass as they shared the same geographic footprint as the Native American Choctaw tribe. Example pic and map below courtesy of FWC:
What peaks my interest though in the Choctaw Bass (besides the fact that they are an entirely new species – that is fascinating in it’s own right) is their proposed range map:
FWC seems to suggest that the bass I catch in Florida parish streams that don’t drain into the Mississippi River are possibly Choctaw bass, rather than spotted bass. I’ve long suspected that the spotted bass I catch around here are somehow different than those that lived in the Tennessee River drainages in Northern Alabama, mainly because they look different with their orange eyes and their habitat is completely different, and given the amount of time they’ve been cut off from the Mississippi River, I imagine their genetics have to be somewhat divergent. So I think it IS possible that they are Choctaw bass, but I also think it’s possible they are their own species, and the reason they aren’t already described is because no one has funded the research. The difference would most likely be genetic, just like with the Choctaw bass, and I guess that is important as it would illustrate diversity. But if it looks just like a spotted bass, acts just like a spotted bass, tastes just like a spotted bass, is it not just a spotted bass?
Putting together a presentation last Monday for the Red Stick Fly Fishers on fly fishing Florida parish streams inspired me to wake up early and head to a creek this past Saturday in hopes of coaxing a few spotted bass to the fly. It was my first time wet wading a creek this year and with temps around 60 degrees at daybreak it made for a chilly start. I had to wear gravel guards which may be a first for me here in Louisiana. Despite that chilly start it turned into a beautiful day, made even more beautiful by not seeing another soul throughout the day.
Temps eventually made it around 80 degrees, which is about the time the fishing would heat up. With temps that hot you can can bet Mr. No Shoulders was out as well, I saw/heard several plop into the water during the wade. I spent all morning hitting normally productive spots with a popper but I had nothing to show for it until around lunch time. I switched to a streamer fly that Blake had tied up and finally caught my first spot.
For awhile there I was worried I was gonna go home with the skunk, but I was finally able to shake it off with that little spot. With my interest in catching fish renewed I pressed on. In fact I waded further on this creek than I ever have and the fishing was seemingly better the further I got from the bridge (which tends to hold true on every creek I’ve been on). I caught another little spot, but the real kick in the pants were the two that I missed. They would have been quality fish for such a small creek. It was that kind of day though. A day when the phrase, “that’s why they call it fishing, and not catching” was never truer. Poor fishing aside, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular and that’s why it really didn’t matter what was caught at the end of the day, because I enjoyed spending a morning walking a creek and taking it all in.
Monday April 8th, I’ll be giving a presentation on fly fishing Florida parish streams at the Red Stick Fly Fishing Club’s monthly meeting. The meeting is open to the public and I’d encourage anyone interested in fly fishing or kayak fishing our local rivers to attend. The meeting is at 7:00pm and will be held at the LRCE building at 5550 Florida Blvd, here in Baton Rouge.