Alabama Bass a Threat to Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass in Virginia
According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, a new regulation took effect on January 1st adding the Alabama Bass to Virginia’s Predatory and Undesirable Species List. These new regulations have made live possession of Alabama Bass unlawful outside of the body of water of catch. Violations of this regulation are a class III misdemeanor. There is no bag or size limit on Alabama Bass and anglers are encouraged to harvest any that they capture.
Alabama Bass are an aggressive species that outcompetes Largemouth Bass and readily hybridizes with Smallmouth and Spotted Bass. Alabama Bass are nearly identical in appearance to Spotted Bass. The jaw of the Alabama Bass lines up with the middle rear of the eye, while Largemouth Bass jaws extend past the eye. Alabama Bass have a dark, blotchy lateral band from head to tail, and have spots below this band. Largemouth Bass have a more continuous lateral band. Alabama Bass also typically have a tooth patch on their tongue, which is rare in Largemouth Bass.
Alabama Bass are confirmed to be present in Virginia in Lake Gaston, Claytor Lake, Philpott Lake, Martinsville Reservoir, and the Chickahominy River.
Alabama Bass represent a tremendous threat to Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass fisheries. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass fisheries in Virginia are valued in the millions of dollars. Declines in either population will result in not only the loss of sportfishing opportunities, but in economic harm to the region.
As an invasive species, Alabama Bass are capable of outcompeting Largemouth Bass, causing declines in abundance. Declines in Largemouth abundance seem to be most pronounced in lakes that are relatively clear and which have limited vegetation. Systems in Virginia such as Smith Mountain Lake, Lake Anna, South Holston Reservoir, and Lake Moomaw are likely to see declines of Largemouth Bass populations if Alabama Bass are introduced.
Current Alabama Bass populations are the results of angler introductions that have occurred over the last ten years. Anglers are reminded that it is illegal to stock fish into a public body of water without an authorization from the Department of Wildlife Resources. Anglers who suspect they have captured an Alabama Bass should take a picture of the fish, clip off a thumbnail-sized portion of one of the pelvic fins, and store the fin clip dry in an envelope. The pelvic fins are located on the bottom of the fish, just under the head. Then contact the Department of Wildlife Resources at 804-367-1293.