A Historical Perspective of Black Bass Management in the United States
James M. Long, Micheal S. Allen, Wesley F. Porak, and Cory D. Suski
Abstract.—The history of black bass management was traced back approximately 200 years beginning with the scientific description of Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu and Largemouth Bass M. salmoides in 1802. In the early years, black bass management centered on stocking and moving fish, especially into water bodies where pollution and overharvest had reduced fish abundance. The conservation movement at the turn of the 20th century led to the creation of state and federal laws intended to reduce the harvest of black bass, especially commercial harvest. Just prior to World War II, there were scientific descriptions of additional black bass species (e.g., Spotted Bass M. punctulatus and Redeye Bass M. coosae), some that were first described but rejected as valid species in the early 1800s. After the war, reservoir construction expanded, leading to increased rates of fish stocking, which expanded the range of some black bass species but at the expense of native habitat for others. The era of reservoir construction, along with the concomitant boom in black bass fishing, led many states to enact more restrictive rules regulating harvest. Angler groups helped reduce the impact of recreational harvest through the promotion of catch-and-release fishing, which has now become so successful that traditional approaches to black bass management, such as bag and minimum-size limits, have become less effective. Technological development and use of genetic tools resulted in the description of additional black bass species (e.g., Shoal Bass M. cataractae and Alabama Bass M. henshalli), typically occupying small ranges in watersheds adversely impacted by anthropogenic alterations. Similarly, genetics has identified incidences of hybridization and lost genetic integrity from past stocking actions. Currently, black bass conservation is increasingly focused on restoring native populations and native habitats requiring the use of additional tools not traditionally employed by fisheries managers to ensure continued success.