Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Micropterus punctulatus

spotted bass



Type Locality

Ohio River (Rafinesque 1819).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Micropterus, Greek, meaning “small fin”, the name resulting from an injury to the type specimen that made it appear that the posterior rays of the soft dorsal formed a separate fin;  punctulatus, Latin, meaning “dotted”, in reference to the rows of dark spots along the lower sides (Pflieger 1975).



Calliurus punctulatus Rafinesque 1819:420.

Micropterus salmoides  Forbes and Richardson 1908:267-269.

Micropterus pseudaplites O’Donnell 1935:486.

Micropterus punctulatus punctulatus Smith 1965:10.



Maximum size: 610 mm TL (Webb and Reeves 1975).


Life colors:  Small spots on scales not present dorsal to lateral line; dark lateral stripe prominent; caudal spot prominent; maximum depth of bars making up lateral stripe contained three to four times in maximum body depth (Hubbs et al. 1991). Back olive green with dark mottling. The single, distinctive, dark lateral stripe on each side, is sometimes separated into diamond-shaped blotches. Lower sides have rows of dark brown or black spots overlying a white background. Fins dusky; undersides of head white; dark spot on edge of each opercle and 3-4 dark bars on each cheek. Breeding males have red eyes. Juveniles have prominent black spot at the caudal base and tricolored caudal fin (black, yellow-orange, and a white edge).


Counts: 12 dorsal fin soft rays; 22-28 scales around caudal peduncle; 7-10 scales above lateral line; 14-19 scales below lateral line; 55+ lateral line scales; 3 anal spines (rarely 2 or 4); 6-13 dorsal fin spines; 6 or 7 branchiostegals (Hubbs et al. 1991); 9-11 anal rays, and 14-16 pectoral rays (Ross 2001).


Body shape:  Slender (Ross 2001); body depth usually contained three to five times in standard length (Hubbs et al 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal or slightly supraterminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999); mouth moderately large ; upper jaw reaches to or slightly beyond the posterior margin of the eye, and lower jaw projects anteriorly beyond the upper jaw (Ross 2001).


External morphology: Shortest dorsal fin spine contained 1.1 to 2.5 times in longest dorsal spine; bases of soft dorsal and anal fins scaled;lateral line present; scales ctenoid (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Internal morphology: Pyloric caecae not branched (Hubbs et al. 1991); no patch of teeth on the tongue (Ross 2001).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Native to streams of the lower Mississippi and Ohio basins, extending eastward to northwestern Florida (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: Native to eastern Texas from the Red River to the Guadalupe Basin exclusive of the Edwards Plateau (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) listed the following drainage units for distribution of Micropterus punctulatus in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in southern drainages are currently secure (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Found in small to large streams and rivers; is especially abundant in large, deep, oligotrophic reservoirs of upper Mobile Bay drainage (Gilbert 1980).


Mesohabitat: In streams, species usually found in faster water than the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides); prefering open windswept areas in reservoirs, often associated with rock or riprap (Ross 2001). Larger fish prefer deeper water (Webb and Reeves 1975); select summer water temperature of 24 degrees C (Coutant 1975). Near the Gulf Coast, species may occur in salinities up to 11 ppt, but growth is poor above 4 ppt (Peterson 1991; Peterson and Ross 1991).



Spawning season: Occurs in mid-April – June at water temperatures of 17.2-25.6 degrees C (Ryan et al. 1970; Smitherman and Ramsey 1972; Vogele 1975a).


Spawning location: Polyphils; miscellaneous substrate and material nesters that have adhesive eggs either attached or occur in clusters on any available substrate (Simon 1999). Male bass excavate shallow nests over rock or gravel substrata; in rivers, along gravel bars (Viosca 1931); in lakes, areas of dense cover such as brush piles, is generally preferred (Vogele and Rainwater 1975).


Reproductive strategy: Guarders; nest spawners (Simon 1999). Male bass courts receptive female, guiding female around the nest in a circular pattern, biting at her opercle and vent; this spawning activity may last 3.5 hours. Male vigorously defends and fans the eggs in the nesting site (Vogele 1975a).


Fecundity: Number of eggs produced by mature female varies with size and age, ranging from 3249 in 311 mm TL, age 3 fish, to 30,586 in a 444 mm TL, age 6 fish Maximum ova diameters in females nearing maturity (late maturing stage) are 1.0 – 1.5 mm (Vogele 1975b). Eggs hatch in 2 days at a water temperature of 21.2 degrees C and in about 5 days at 14-16 degrees C. Larvae remain in nest area for 4-8 days. Average number of eggs per nest is 5016, and average number of larvae is 1476 (Vogele 1975a, b).


Age at maturation: By the end of their second year; some fish reach maturity after one year; generally, females are mature at 249+ mm TL and males at 241+ mm TL (Vogele 1975a; Webb and Reeves 1975).


Migration: Larger individuals often migrate into tributaries during the spwning season (Pflieger 1975). Individuals show little movement, although fish that do move tend to go downstream, averaging distances traveled of 39 km (Funk 1955).


Longevity: Usually not beyond 6 years; maximum reported 11 years. Individuals found in reservoirs seem to be longer-lived than those found in streams (Webb and Reeves 1975).


Growth: Species seems to grow more rapidly in reservoirs than in streams (Webb and Reeves 1975; Carlander 1977). In Tennessee reservoir populations, growth averages 160 mm TL at age 1, 280 mm TL at age 2, 345 mm TL at age 3, and 390 mm TL at age 4 (Eschmeyer 1940; Stroud 1948; Hargis 1965). Finnel et al. (1956) reported respective length of age classes 1-5 in an Oklahoma stream population of 84, 165, 224, 277, and 320 mm TL.


Food habits: Goldstein and Simon (1999) list first and second level trophic classifications for this species as invertivore/carnivore and wholebody, respectively; main food items are insects, crayfishes, and fishes (Vogele 1975a). Newly hatched bass feed on plankton. Fish larger than 75 mm TL commonly feed on small crustaceans (cladocerans and copepods). Aquatic insects, including midge larvae and mayflies are eaten by all size classes, but ingestion of aquatic insects drops about 50% in fish larger than 153 mm TL. Midge and black fly larvae primary food items in fish up to 75 mm TL. Primary food items of individuals between 75-152 mm TL are large mayflies (caenids and heptageniids). Diets of fish larger than 153 mm TL more commonly include terrestrial insects such as ants, wasps, grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and dragonflies. Large bass consume crayfishes and fishes, including gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum); longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis); and various minnows (Cyprinidae), which may constitute a large portion of the food volume, especially in streams (Applegate et al. 1967; Mullan and Applegate 1968; Smith and Page 1969; Ryan et al. 1970; Matthews et al. 1992). In some areas, there may be a relationship between feeding activity and time of day, with activity highest near dusk and sunrise (Vogele 1975a).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Juvenile spotted bass can be difficult to distinguish from young largemouth bass (M. salmoides). In the spotted bass, spinous and soft dorsal fins more broadly connected than in M. salmoides; caudal fin of young spotted bass distinctly tricolored versus the caudal fin of young M. salmoides, which has a wide black margin with a lighter base, but lacks the orange-red pigment; pyloric caecae are unbranched in spotted bass and branched in M. salmoides, which is a helpful character for distinguishing small specimens. Spotted bass differ from smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu) in having a distinct lateral stripe, a tooth patch on the tongue, and a larger mouth (Ross 2001).


Host Records

Cestoda: Proteocephalidae, Proteocephalus ambloplitis; Trematoda: Acolpenteron ureteroecctes, Caecincola latostoma, Caecincola parvulus, Clinostomum marginatum, Oncocleidus principalis, Phyllodistomum pearsei, Pisciamphistoma reynoldsi, Posthodiplostomum minimum, Textrema hopkinsi, Urocleidus principalis

Nemata: Camallanus oxycephalus, Contracaecum, Spinitectus carolini, Spinitectus micracanthus, Spiroxys contorta; Acanthocephala: Leptorhynchoides thecatus, Neoechinorhynchus clyindratum; Copepoda: Ergasilus arthrosis (Mayberry et al. 2000).


Commercial or Environmental Importance




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Matthews, W. J., F. P. Gelwick, and J. J. Hoover. 1992. Food of and habitat use by juveniles of species of Micropterus and Morone in a southwestern reservoir. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 121:54-66.

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