Managing Centrarchid Fisheries in Rivers and Streams

Management of Choctaw Bass in the Choctawhatchee River Drainage Based on Novel Life History Information

Katie L. Woodside, Matthew G. Wegener, and Neil J. Branson


Abstract.—The Choctaw Bass Micropterus cf. punctulatus is an undescribed black bass found in coastal river systems of northwest Florida and southern Alabama. The Choctaw Bass is morphologically similar to the Spotted Bass M. punctulatus. Prior to this study, there was no published life history information specific to this black bass. The need to address these information gaps was further influenced by the popularity of black bass fishing and potential statewide black bass regulation changes in Florida. Our research examined relative abundance, age, mortality, growth, and diet of Choctaw Bass collected from the Choctawhatchee River, Florida and Holmes Creek, a major tributary of the Choctawhatchee River in fall 2012 and 2013. Choctaw Bass were compared to sympatric Largemouth Bass M. salmoides × Florida Bass M. floridanus intergrades. Relative abundance was lower for Choctaw Bass than Largemouth Bass in both the Choctawhatchee River and Holmes Creek. The oldest Choctaw Bass from the Choctawhatchee River was age-5 and the oldest Choctaw Bass from Holmes Creek was age-11. Total instantaneous mortality of Choctaw Bass was statistically similar between the study areas. Total instantaneous mortality for Choctaw Bass from Holmes Creek was also similar to sympatric Largemouth Bass. Growth differed for Choctawhatchee River and Holmes Creek Choctaw Bass. Diets of Choctaw Bass collected from the Choctawhatchee River consisted primarily of fish while diets of Choctaw Bass and Largemouth Bass collected from Holmes Creek consisted primarily of crayfish. The observed restricted distribution, limited abundance relative to Largemouth Bass, limited number of Choctaw Bass collected greater than 406 mm TL, and the lack of Choctaw Bass older than age-5 in the Choctawhatchee River led to the recommendation that Choctaw Bass be managed separately from Largemouth Bass.