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Largemouth Bass

By Dan Burden, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, djburden@iastate.edu

Revised May 2014.


The native range of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) includes the lower Great Lakes, the central part of the Mississippi River system south to the Gulf Coast, Florida and north on the Atlantic coast to Virginia. As a result of its popularity as a game fish, the largemouth bass may now be the most widely introduced fish in North America. It occurs over virtually the entire Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida, west to Texas and northeastern Mexico, north through the eastern parts of the states from New Mexico to North Dakota and east across southern Canada to western New York. Additionally, it has been introduced throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Brazil.

Young bass primarily eat aquatic insects with fish, mollusks and crayfish playing an important role in the adult diet. Largemouth bass spawn from late spring through mid-summer as water temperatures approach 60°F. A single female may produce from 2,000 to 10,000 eggs and may spawn with several males. The male fans the eggs to ensure that they are well oxygenated and defends the nest and fry.

Commercial Production

Largemouth bass are cultured at private, state and federal facilities for recreational fishing and stocking programs. Under culture conditions, largemouth bass may be spawned and reared artificially or allowed to reproduce in culture ponds with the resulting young moved to other ponds for grow-out. Optimal temperature for growth of largemouth bass is between 75°F and 86°F. Although largemouth bass may survive short exposures to pH as low as 4.0, optimal growth pH is between 6.5 and 8.5. As with pH, largemouth bass can survive brief exposure to low dissolved oxygen levels; however, optimal growth occurs at dissolved oxygen levels above 5.0 ppm.

Largemouth bass are voracious predators, and this limits their applications for aquaculture-produced food fish from intensive-culture systems. However, fingerling production can be profitable if markets are available. Most fingerlings from commercial hatcheries are sold directly to state or federal fishery managers for public stocking programs or to private fishery managers or individuals for the stocking of private lakes or ponds. Competition from public (state and federal) hatcheries limits these markets in some areas. Since 1- to 2-inch bass fingerlings are subject to severe cannibalism, they must be harvested and sold for pond grow-out stocking at proper densities as soona s they reach this marketable size.

Based on a 1-surface-acre pond system containing 30 thousand 1.5-inch to 2-inch fingerlings, a projected income and expense model developed by the USDA-ARS Southern Regional Aquaculture Center demonstrated total costs of $2,502, income of $4,500 and an expected return to management of $1,998. The authors note that this is a wholesale projection; selling retail would double this figure. (Culture of Largemouth Bass Fingerlings 1997)

According to the 2005 Census of Aquaculture, 192 U.S. farms reared largemouth bass in 2005, posting total sales of $10.6 million that year. Ohio dominates this commodity, having 20 farms that earned $173,000. However, both Arkansas (10 farms) and Illinois (10 farms) posted higher total sales: about $3.7 million and $870,000, respectively. Other states having a significant number of farms raising largemouth bass are Wisconsin (15 farms) and Alabama (10 farms).

Of the 192 farms raising largemouth bass, 97 raised fingerlings and fry, 58 raised foodsize and 52 raised stockers. Ohio (10 farms) and Wisconsin (8 farms) dominate in fingerlings and fry production. Alabama, Arkansas and Ohio have the same number of farms raising foodsize largemouth bass: six. With six farms raising stockers, Ohio also ranks first in that category.

In 2013 the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service undertook the most recent comprehensive census of aquaculture. Compilation of 2013 data began in January of 2014 and should be released later in the year.

Other Links

  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii - Hawaii Aquaculture Web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii, presented by the State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture.
  • Aquaculture Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Provides fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch), available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information). Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Aquamedia - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Largemouth Bass, Southern Regional Aquaculture Center (SRAC), Texas A&M University.
  • Largemouth Bass, Kentucky State University.
  • Largemouth Bass, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2008 - With proper management, native largemouth bass can grow to 12 pounds or more.
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Commercial Services: Aquaculture and Seafood - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. This mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • Permaculture: Aquaculture - Huge bibliography of written resources and links from CrescentMeadow.com, Crescent Meadow Systems, a pemaculture reference site.
  • Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture - The Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • University of Wisconsin Sea Grant: Aquaculture and Sea Food Safety - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.

 Links checked: May 2014


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