Newly-hatched fry form large schools that resemble a dark object and serve as a defense mechanism against predation.

Spring is spawning new life into ponds.  Stroll around the shoreline, watch for light-colored spots in shallows, and pause to enjoy Nature’s spectacular moments on a–bass bed.

If you’ve been scouting, you should have seen them at one to four-foot depths.  Bass reach reproductive maturity about one-year-old.  They are stimulated to mate when water temperatures reach 60 to 72-degrees. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center estimates females produce 4,000 eggs per pound of weight. Length of spawning cycles vary with water temps.  If stable, it may last a few weeks.  If weather patterns fluctuate, fish move back and forth from beds for longer periods until conditions stabilize.

If you’re lucky to see nest activity, it likely was the male.  He guards eggs during incubation which takes two to four days.  Fry remain on the nest up to two-weeks before swimming off into their big world.  Ironically, they are most vulnerable at this stage.  In a few short years, however, they will be the dominant inhabitant of the ecosystem.  Survival rates depend on predator pressure and water fertility.  Survival rates increase with good fertility and a plankton bloom.  Average life-span of bass is 10 to 12-years.

Expect challenging angling success with bed fish.  When a bass picks-up a bait flipped to the bed, it’s not a strike.  They perceive it as a threat to the nest.  The guardian will pick it up, swim a few feet, spit it out, and return to his post.  Even experienced fishermen have difficulty hooking them.

Typical size within 90-days. Fingerlings are stocked at 3-inches.

When leaving the nest, fry remain in large schools.  Dense concentrations project a dark object.  Nature instills the tactic so they appear larger and, for a moment, less vulnerable to predation.  Until a largemouth bass reaches 17 to 18-inches, it spends most of its time searching for a meal and avoiding being a meal for another critter.  At 18-inches, it achieves elite status.  With an abundant food chain, within a few years, the once tiny-transparent figure that struggled daily to survive can jerk a fishing rod from your hand.

Most of us grew up hearing folks stress catch and release bass.  On large reservoirs, such philosophy is flexible. They are big places, experience lots of fishing pressure, and need more offspring to sustain the fishery.  Private lakes are small impoundments with less fishing pressure.  You must harvest 25-pounds of bass per acre annually.  If not enforced, it’s only a matter of time until they overpopulate and deplete the food chain.  Instead of raising that small fry to your trophy bass of a lifetime, it will stunt and not achieve full potential.

Let’s devise a management plan to help your family enjoy this memorable experience

Abundant plankton forage accelerates growth.

In a few short years, you won’t recognize them.

The dark lateral line is visible even at this age.