1. Bass under attack in South Africa!
We know that Bass as
a species (to use the word "species" rather loosely) is on the "hit list" of the national and
provincial governments in South Africa being regarded as
an "alien" and "invasive" species.
To ensure the continued existence of Bass as a species
and the sport of Bass fishing we love in South Africa,
please read the report below, mobilise and register as
individuals and organisations to ensure that a
catastrophe (from a Bass fishing point of view) is not
forced on us!
date for Registration is 15 September 2004!
further details. You can also download the legislation
referred to in the report from
www.gov.za or just click
on the name of the Act below for the legislation in .pdf
National Environmental Management:
Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of 2004) was signed into
law on 31 May 2004 and it is set to enter into force,
by Presidential proclamation, on 1 September 2004.
Chapter 4 of the Act contains provisions for the
protection of rare and threatened species and species
protected under international agreements. It makes
provision for the listing of species that are
threatened or in need of protection to ensure their
survival in the wild and also regulate the activities,
such as trade, which may involve such listed species.
Chapter 5 provides for the management of
alien and invasive species through the
control of their introduction and spread, as well as
the control and eradication of those already
established. It provides for the listing of alien and
invasive species and also regulates the activities,
which may involve these listed species.
The Act compels the Minister to follow a public
consultative process before publishing lists of
threatened and protected species and lists of alien
and invasive species. Recognising the need for
consultation to develop and approve these lists and to
ensure that all relevant stakeholders are consulted
and involved in the developmental process, the
national Department of Environmental Affairs and
Tourism is initiating a process to register
Stakeholders are requested to register
as one of three categories as appropriate, viz.
institutions, experts or individuals.
Individual members of the public, experts or relevant
organisations may apply to register either for
the purpose of consultation regarding: 1) the listing
of threatened and protected species and/or, 2) the
listing of alien and invasive species. A
database of stakeholders will be developed and
maintained by the department and will be used for
consultation purposes during the listing process.
Scientific and technical expertise required for the
listing of threatened and protected species and alien
and invasive species will be sourced form experts
registered on the stakeholder database and other
identified experts. Ad hoc expert groups to assist in
the compilation of species lists will be formed from
the roster of experts on the database. For example, ad
hoc expert groups will be set up on: (a) developing
categories and criteria for the listing of species,
(b) birds, (c) mammals, (d) plants, (e) marine
species, (f) freshwater fish species, (g)
reptiles and amphibians, and (h) invertebrate, but may
not necessarily be restricted to these.
Draft lists will be circulated to all registered
stakeholders, on the departmental database, for
comment and input.
Enquiries can be directed to, and registration
forms can be obtained from the following departmental
Ms Sonja Meintjes
Tel: (012) 310 3575
Ms Thea Carroll
Tel: (012) 310 3533
For more information contact: Mava Scott
Mobile: (082) 411 9821/(012) 310 3849 | E-mail:
A concerted effort is
needed to make our voice heard!
download Registration Forms in respect of the
species listing referred to in Chapters 4 and 5 of
Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of
2. Types of Bass in South Africa
The following types
(species and strains) of Bass are currently present in
Northern strain Largemouth Bass
The Largemouth Bass has
a very large mouth and a large upper jaw that extends
behind the eye; its colour ranges from greenish to black.
shallower, warmer water than other Bass species and are
most at home in weeds and other thick
cover such as brush and
timber. If given the option, Largemouths will opt for
still water and are more at home in dams and
impoundments than rivers.
Largemouths prefer to
spawn in shallow, protected areas with hard, dark
bottoms near or next to wood. Reedbeds usually make for
the best spawning habitat.
Their diet consists primarily
of baitfish. Insects, crustaceans, frogs, rodents and
small snakes will also be taken.
The world record
for Largemouth Bass is 22lb4oz (probably had
some Florida strain genes!)
Florida strain Largemouth Bass (Micropterus
is Bobby Flaxman with
a 4,575kg (10.065lb) pure
Florida strain Bass
caught at Goedertrouw Dam
in KwaZulu-Natal in 1987.
See description for
Northern strain above.
The two subspecies (Northerns
and Floridas) are
visually indistinguishable, although the Floridas
are generally darker dorsally and tend to have a black
"trim" on the outer edge of the tailfin (check out the
above photo). The scale count along the lateral line
also differs from that of the Northerns, but the only
way to positively identify a Largemouth Bass as being
Northern or Florida strain is through genetic testing.
Northerns and Floridas where they occur in the same
waters may also complicate the identification process.
The latest thinking in the
USA is that the Florida strain is not a strain, but
should be classified as a new distinct species,
geneticists from universities and state conservation
agencies in the USA recently published their research
in the book Black Bass: Ecology, Conservation
and Management. Using biochemical analysis,
the team essentially took DNA fingerprints of nearly
all the known black bass species and presumed
subspecies and created a map that shows the distance
of relation among them. The study's most significant
finding states in effect that the Largemouth Bass is
to Florida Bass what a rainbow trout is to a cutthroat
trout: a similar but a distinct and even distant
Anecdotal evidence from anglers also seem to indicate
that the Florida Bass are harder to catch (less aggressive
- less voracious feeders - and more suspicious and
cautious) than the normal Northern Largemouths.
This would mean that the Florida
strain Bass should have less impact than other species
of Bass (including the Northern strain Largemouth) on
vulnerable fish species where the Florida strain
shares the same waters with vulnerable species.
The Smallmouth is
bronze or brownish in colour, and it has
side markings like vertical bars.
It has a smaller mouth than the Largemouth, and
its jaw does not extend beyond the eye. The eye is
reddish, while the Largemouth's eye is yellowish. Smallmouths prefer deeper, clearer, cooler water with
structure. They are
seldom found in stagnant ponds or murky waters shallower
than 25 ft.
In addition to clear waters, the Smallmouth Bass prefers a moderately swift current. In rivers and
streams they stay away from the swiftest sections, where
the trout might hold, but prefer pools with a noticeable
current to those that are completely stagnant. Like
their Largemouth cousins, Smallmouths gravitate towards structure, such a
boulders, rock beds, tree trunks and bridge abutments,
but stay away from the weedbeds that Largemouths
love. Most Smallmouth live in water deeper
than 15 ft if they have access
Smallmouths eat insects,
crustaceans and baitfish.
The world record Smallmouth weighed
Spotted Bass (a beautiful
fish with striking markings - see photo below) fall
somewhere between Largemouths and Smallmouths in many respects,
including appearance, and depth, temperature and habitat
preferences. Spotted Bass do not grow as
large as the Largemouth, and unlike the Smallmouth, do
not have vertical bars on their sides. They have smaller
mouths and jaws like the smallmouth, but are marked with
rows of spots below the lateral line. Spotted Bass are
often misidentified as Largemouths. If you catch a Bass
which looks like a Largemouth, but with a smaller mouth, a
thinner tail "wrist" and "teeth" (a rough area) on its
tongue, it will definitely be a Spotted Bass. The "teeth" on
the tongue is the most reliable identification indicator
to distinguish Spotted Bass from Largemouths.
Spotted Bass swim in
schools more frequently than the other Bass species and
can often be found around deep, rocky structure. In
North America, they have been known to "outcompete", or
otherwise be detrimental to Largemouth Bass, where the two species
occur in the same waters.
The world record
Spotted Bass weighed 10.27lb.
Quick visual comparison
between Spotted Bass
and Largemouth Bass
All the above species and
strains of Bass may, where they occur in the same
waters, also "hybridise" to a limited extent.
Interbreeding between the Northern and Florida strains
are not hybrids in the true sense.
3. Bass in relation to other
fish (indigenous and alien) in South Africa
We do need to protect and
conserve indigenous fish stocks and recognise that
certain river systems (mainly in the upper reaches of
those systems) are sensitive, but Largemouth Bass
(both the Northern and Florida strains)
and trout, which are now being branded as "undesirable
aliens" do have a legitimate place in many waters in
South Africa, especially dams and impoundments.
The lack of a suitable
indigenous "predator" to attempt to control population
explosions of (alien) carp, (indigenous) moggel and mudfish
(Labeo) and (indigenous) bream (Tilapia
and Oreochromis) is
evident in many waters resulting in masses of small and
stunted fish and silted or muddy waters. What sane
angler would be satisfied with catching 20 half pound
bream as opposed to a couple of 4-pounders? Surely the
specimen carp angler would sacrifice the opportunity of
catching a dozen 2lb - 6lb carp for a chance of latching
onto a brace of 20 - 40lb fish? Largemouth Bass
(especially the Florida strain) can form
part of an appropriate management programme for such
waters which may not only improve angling for other
species, but would also have a positive effect on water
Is it a co-incidence that
waters which contain Bass produce far better quality
bream and carp? In relation to excellent specimen carp
fisheries, just think of Florida Lake
Buffelspoort Dam, Klaserie Dam and Kwena Dam - the list
goes on ... Compare this to other waters where you may
catch a lot of carp, but the chances of a specimen carp
being produced are remote: Vaal Dam, Bloemhof Dam,
Baberspan, Leeupan ...
4. Are Largemouth Bass the
villains they are made out to be?
Largemouth Bass (both the
Northern and Florida strains) relate
strongly to structure, avoid moving water and are
opportunistic feeders which use ambush tactics - they
are not built to chase and "run" down their prey.
Healthy and naturally speedy yellowfish relating to
moving water and current would not, in the normal course
of events, end up as a Largemouth Bass's meal. In open
or moving water Largemouth Bass would have little
Smallmouth Bass are more
suited to moving water and current and it is
unfortunately the Smallmouth Bass which has contributed
to placing stain on populations of indigenous minnows in
the upper reaches of some rivers, especially in the
Western Cape. This has been publicised widely in the
media and Bass, generally, have been given the blame.
Spotted Bass tend to
"school" more than Largemouths and Smallmouths and
Spotted Bass have, in North America, been known to "outcompete",
or be detrimental to Largemouth Bass, where the two
species occur in the same waters. Fortunately this has
not happened in South Africa.
Largemouth Bass (both
the Northern and Florida strains) are the
more "well-behaved" of the Bass species and deserve a
place in the South African aquatic environment.
Largemouth Bass (both the
Northern and Florida strains) are not the
villains when it comes to declining yellowfish or
indigenous minnow populations in certain areas in South
Africa. Let it not be forgotten that industrial, mining and
agricultural pollution also contributes significantly to the stress on
indigenous yellowfish and minnow (and all other
Furthermore, the fact that there is
currently not one properly functioning state (national
or provincial) fish hatchery in South Africa which
produces the various indigenous yellowfish species for
stocking and replenishing waters in our country is a
National and provincial
nature conservation authorities are not doing enough to
stamp out illegal gill-netting and overharvesting (by
other means) of sensitive and vulnerable indigenous fish populations
such as yellowfish, by subsistence fishermen who catch
and kill indiscriminately.
5. A Conclusion?
Smallmouth Bass and
Spotted Bass should perhaps not be actively protected or promoted
in South Africa, but Smallmouth Bass, together
with trout, are alien species which could play a
role in clear, deep impoundments (where there are no
vulnerable indigenous species) in the cooler parts of
South Africa (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and
portions of KwaZulu-Natal).
(both the Northern and Florida strains)
have taken the flack for some damage done (especially in
the upper reaches of river systems in the Western Cape)
to vulnerable indigenous species by Smallmouth
Bass and Spotted Bass. This perception must be corrected by
making people (and "the authorities") aware that all Bass
species are not the same and have different preferences,
habitats, feeding habits and effects on their aquatic
environments and the organisms in those environments.
(especially the Florida strain) should not be targeted
as undesirable in South Africa.
As has been stated above, the
Florida strain Bass should have less impact than other
species of Bass (including the Northern strain
Largemouth) on vulnerable fish species where the Florida
strain shares the same waters with vulnerable
As stated in 3 above,
Largemouth Bass (both the Northern and Florida
strains), can contribute to improved carp and bream
fisheries and can be employed as useful tools in
managing certain waters (such as large and small still
water impoundments across the country where no
vulnerable or endangered indigenous species are present).
Appropriate management of
our inland waters and fisheries is currently sadly
lacking in South Africa. Simply targeting Bass,
generally, as a convenient scapegoat is both simplistic
and not scientific.