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July 2003
 

In The Field

IN THE FIELD - WITH JOE SADOWSKI

A spiny backed trout – is what Bass were called in the very early 1800’s!  According to James A. Henshall M.D. in his classic, “Book of the Black Bass” it was in the year 1802 that Lacepede, the noted French Naturalist, first claimed discovery of the “Spiny backed trout”. It would be over 85 years and almost 90 different scientific name changes before a Smallmouth Bass would be called a Smallmouth Bass. It would be almost the same for the Largemouth Bass.  However, one of the more interesting misnomers would be the “Oswego Bass”. For a member of the Sunfish family (TRUE), the bass has a distinct history!    Originally, bass were found mainly in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain and Lake George. But, the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 changed everything! It allowed the bass to migrate into other waters by way of the canal system. The scrappiness of the Smallmouth endeared it to many anglers who had a difficult time trying to catch the disappearing Brook Trout. The quality of the water was changing and the Brookies were not as prevalent as cities and towns were created along the canal route.

The appearance of bass in New York State waters, previously inhabited by Brook Trout, was a blessing in the minds of the area fishermen. The introduction of Bass into the nations non-bass areas really gained momentum after the Civil War by way of the Railroad. Many wealthy sportsmen used the railroad to ship live bass from upstate New York to their private ponds in other states. Heavy rains and their resulting floods inadvertently assisted in the spread of the bass population throughout the Northeast and Midwestern states.   It was about 1870 that many fish culturists discovered that a serious error was un-intentionally made. The bass were destroying the native Brook Trout and its habitat. In order to nullify the problem, CARP were introduced in New York waters between 1875 and 1880 as food for the voracious bass. They soon realized that was a bigger mistake!

“During the early days of artificial fish propagation and planting mistakes were made that will haunt the fish culturist for years to come. The intentions were doubtless always good, but subsequent events proved them to be errors of judgment in the light of greater experience.” This was written by Mr. A. N.  Cheney, the New York State fish Culturist in the 1895 Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission Report. He also wrote – “The error of planting black bass in waters wholly unfitted for them cannot be charged entirely to fish culturist or to those in authority, but following mistakes of this character another great mistake was made in planting the German carp as food for Black Bass.” “Desirable as the Black Bass is, as the universal game fish of the people, the spread of it should be checked, in spite of the desire constantly showing itself to plant the fish in yet new waters, by those who do not understand the harm that may come from it. To all such this is written as a warning!”—A.N.  Cheney (1894)

When the “powers that be” built the Erie Canal in the early 1800’s, they had absolutely no idea what they were unleashing upon the fishing world. It has been said that “Necessity is the mother of invention”— or something like that.  Human nature has the tendency to find the easiest way to do things and in this case it was the invention of the first multiplying reel. George Snyder, of Paris, Kentucky, is credited with its creation about 1810. Little did he realize what type of Pandora’s box he was opening. In this case one could say it was the “worlds largest tackle box”.

Since that fateful era, there have been thousands of reels created in countless models to go along with tens of thousands of different rods in all weights, lengths and actions. The rods have gone from hickory to bamboo to fiberglass to most anything on the market today. The lines have gone from braided horsehair to linen and silk to cotton to nylon to synthetic line that is almost invisible to fish. 

In mentioning lures, it would be safe in saying that there are well over a half of million in various weights, types, and colors. Some really catch fish, but most just catch fishermen. It was at the 1987 Outdoor Writers Association of America Conference in Kalispell, Montana that I was sharing some of “Kentucky’s finest” with Ed Zern, without question one of the greatest outdoor humorist of all times. The subject of lures was brought up of what may be the best lure ever created. Ed said that he had created a self motorized lure that blinked, wiggled and did all sorts of strange things, but it never hooked a fish.  When a fish saw it, it usually died laughing, as a result it has been banned in all 50 states and Canada as being too effective!

There has been numerous fishing clubs and societies formed over the years all dedicated to the scrappy and hard fighting BASS. There are specialized boats, television Programs, a language and things that are impossible to keep track of—all because of the Black Bass. Largemouth Bass have been introduced into Canada, M exico and numerous Latin American countries, all with great success. In most Latin American countries that have Largemouth Bass, there are a great financial asset to the local economy. Serious bass fishermen are willing to pay dearly for very large bass trophy.

Currently in New York State, the record for a Largemouth Bass is 11 pounds 4oz.
The Smallmouth record is 8 pounds 4 oz.

My top five bass spots are:

1) St. Lawrence River—The River has more Bass along it than an angler can try for in a lifetime. Many believe World Records, both Smallmouth AND Largemouth, lurk in it depths!    

2) Oneida Lake—With the Zebra Mussels constantly at work cleaning the lake, it’s helping the allow the bait fish to flourish which in turn feeds some very large Bass.

3) The Lower Niagara River—north of the two power stations, has an unbelievable huge population of bass.

4) Lake Erie—A lake with ideal conditions for great Smallmouth Bass fishing.

5) Saranac Lakes—The ESPN Great Outdoor Games proved to the world as to what great Bass fishing exists in our Adirondacks!

In most waters, New York’s Bass season opens on the third Saturday in June a.k.a. Father’s Day weekend. The date hasn’t changed since the late1800’s, —- thank you New York State for many things!


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