Warmouth

August 4, 2021

After I got off work yesterday, I decided I would give the magnet another try.  I have fished Lake Fort Smith (a reservoir) five or six times but have not had much luck, although I have always fished from the bank.  I have several friends who fish the lake from boats and tell me there are good fish present, if you can find them.  I started by dropping a bobber along a rock ledge next to a tree and got an immediate fish, then tangled in the rocks and lost my bobber.  I switched to my magnet and was not having much action.   Just as I told myself the trout magnet may not be the magic I thought, I was slammed by two quick fish.  As I pulled the second fish from the water, I realized it was different than anything I had ever seen.  I later found out this was a Warmouth Bass.

The Warmouth Bass (Lepomis gulosus) is a freshwater fish of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae) that is found throughout the southeastern United States.  The adult warmouth is dark back, with a mottled brown coloration.  The belly is generally golden, and the male has a bright-orange spot at the base of the dorsal fin.  Three to five reddish-brown streaks radiate from the eyes, and the gill flaps are often red.  It has three spines in the anal fin, 10 spines in the dorsal fin, and small teeth are present on the tongue.  These fish range in size from 4 to 10 inches (10.2 to 25 cm) but can grow to over 12 inches (31 cm) and weigh up to 2.25 pounds (1 kg).  The Warmouth is occasionally confused with the Rock Bass or Green Sunfish, both of which share its relatively large mouth and heavy body.  When I checked the app on my phone, both the Rock bass and Warmouth bass were suggestions (with several others).  The online site noted one difference is that the Warmouth tends to be a bit larger in size than either of the other two species.  I found it hard to determine “bigger” on a single five-inch fish.

The reason I found out it was a Warmouth Bass was because I asked.  Not just once, but several times (I know, not a typical male response).  I took the picture to the marina and the worker suggested I take it to the information office.  The three workers at the headquarters did not know.  I knew I would drive past a big fly-fishing store in Fort Smith, so I decided to stop and see if they knew what it was.  I was directed to two different employees who said, “Never seen one before,” although they thought it might be a Rock bass.   As I was leaving one of the workers said, “Oh, ask her, she is a fisheries biologist.”  This woman confirmed the Warmouth, Rock, and several others have similar colors and striations but have different spots.  One of the best ways to identify the Warmouth is by the red tint in their eyes.  When she enlarged the photo, she confirmed it was a Warmouth.  Who would have thought to ask an expert?

Thoughts:  While Warmouth range across southern rivers and ponds from Florida to Louisiana, in Arkansas they are generally confined to the waters of the Ozarks.  Other than the lake I had fished, where I rarely catch fish, I do not get into these waters often.  I was surprised that none of the regular anglers knew what the Warmouth was.   While I got many suggestions on what the fish might be, none of them was right.  Even my phone app took me in the wrong direction.  I asked the biologist I was reminded that if you really want to know, ask an expert.  The same could be said for the different recommendations and explanations for why the covid virus is ramping out of control.  The answer is obvious, you just need to ask the experts.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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