Obviously not a largemouth bass - water's too cold, too much current. And seemingly not a smallmouth bass - here's a picture of a smallmouth bass I caught just a mile downstream:
Definitely some similarities, but the eye color is much more brown than red. Since I haven't caught a Red Eye Bass, or Rock Bass, in Maryland in about five years, I started to think - maybe I've caught the easternmost Red Eye on record for this state!!! Then, I let the fish go.
Again, it's been five years since I've caught one. And I'm not an ichthyologist. So bear with me. M. coosae is common only in a few river systems in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Which doesn't mean it's never been stocked elsewhere...but...the Maryland piedmont (and not draining to the Potomac) seems like a bit of a stretch. Below is a picture of M. coosae.
You have to admit, M. coosa looks a lot like my fish. Alas, Maryland DNR is pretty adamant that there is zero chance I had an M. coosa on my hands. Plus, the wikipedia page on the species backs this up......and happens to be based on the authoritative text on Midatlantic fish (here it is, yes, you should buy it if you fish and live here). Alright then, moving onward.
A. rupestris, aka the "Rock Bass" or "Redeye Rock Bass" does indeed live in Maryland - unlike M. coosae. Here's where the DNR end starts to fall apart. The species is not recognized as existing in the state, however, a state record fish exists (and now lives in the giant aquarium at our local Bass Pro Shop), and yours truly has actually caught "Redeye Rock Bass" in the state. Since I've seen them myself, and since local anglers obviously stock them into farm ponds (hence the new state record, caught in the same pond as the last state record).....I'll call the matter settled. The damn fish lives in Maryland. Native or not. And it could have been stocked into this drainage - native or not, and legal or not. But what does the Redeye Rock Bass look like?
|Smoky Mountain Smallmouth from Trout Underground (read their post here!)|
So, smallmouth bass it is. Oh well. I guess the thing that got me down this road is that many of our smallmouth in the Baltimore area don't look this way at all - they look more like this:
In the end, I learned a good lesson in the variability of fish coloration. Not nearly as exciting as being able to claim that I found a mountain species in a piedmont stream. And by the way, if anyone wants to give a shot at telling me what species or hybrid this fish I caught this summer was, by all means, fire away, smarties!
|Caught in an abandoned sand pit on the eastern shore of MD, near the VA border..Spotted x Largemouth??|