Recent fishery surveys in Chattahoochee tributaries of Alabama indicate shoal bass numbers are low and immediate protection is warranted to alleviate any additional mortality. Therefore, the harvest of shoal bass in the Chattahoochee tributaries of Alabama is prohibited effective October 1, 2006. This regulation only prohibits the harvest of shoal bass; angling for shoal bass is still permissible. If a shoal bass is caught, great care should be taken to ensure the fish is returned quickly to the water.
The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, in conjunction with the Auburn University Department of Fisheries, began a study in 2004 examining the status of shoal bass in Alabama. After extensive sampling in all available shoal bass habitats, very few fish were collected, and only one viable population was observed.
Alabama is home to five species of black bass. These include the largemouth bass, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, redeye bass and shoal bass. Of these five black bass species, the shoal bass has the most restricted distribution in Alabama. This species is native to Alabama, Georgia and Florida in the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola river drainages. In Alabama, it is found in tributaries of the Chattahoochee River drainage.
Shoal bass coloration varies from dark olive green to light green on the back, with a white belly and 10 to 15 dark blotches along each side of the body. Shoal bass closely resemble redeye bass; however, shoal bass lack the white coloration of the upper and lower edges of the tail fin and do not possess a tooth patch on the tongue.
The shoal bass is a recently described species that can reach 25 inches in length and weigh over 8 pounds. The Alabama angling record is 6 pounds, 11 ounces and was caught in Halawakee Creek in 1996.
The shoal bass is a habitat specialist, requiring shoal and swift water habitat. A majority of shoal habitat has been lost in the main stem of the Chattahoochee River due to the construction of dams for hydropower and commercial navigation. Therefore, most of the shoal habitat available in Alabama is in the Chattahoochee tributaries.
A restoration program by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division will begin in 2007 in an attempt to restore shoal bass populations. Shoal bass ranging in size from 6 to 8 inches will be stocked at various shoals and monitored for several years. The goal of this program will be to increase the numbers of shoal bass in Alabama. After these populations become self-sustaining, the no-harvest regulation will be lifted. For additional information regarding shoal bass in Alabama, please contact the Aquatic Resources Program at 334-242-3471 or visit www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/fish/bassblack/shoal.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit http://www.outdooralabama.com/.