Morone chrysops

white bass



Type Locality

“Falls of Ohio”, Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky (Rafinesque 1820).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Morone, a name of unknown derivation; chrysops, Greek, meaning “golden eye” (Pflieger 1997).



Species formerly included in Roccus, which was synonymized with Morone (Whitehead and Wheeler 1966).

Perca chrysops Rafinesque 1820:22.

Roccus chrysops Evermann 1899:310; Cook 1959:166.



Maximum size: 420 mm TL (Burgess 1980).


Life colors: Back blue-gray. Sides silver with 6-10 brown longitudinal stripes (stripes along the sides usually continuous; Hubbs et al.1991). Undersides white. Dorsal, caudal, and anal fins dusky; pectoral and pelvic fins white to clear (Robison and Buchanan 1988).


Tooth patch: Teeth in single patch on back of tongue (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Counts: 50-58 lateral line scales; 1st dorsal fin with 9 spines; 2nd dorsal fin with 1 spine and 13-15 soft rays; 3 anal spines (Robison and Buchanan 1988); 11-13 anal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Body shape: Moderately deep-bodied, compressed; head small with acute snout and large mouth, lower jaw projecting beyond upper jaw; back arched in front of 1st dorsal fin; body depth greater than head length (Robison and Buchanan 1988); body depth contained less than three times in standard length (Hubbs et al 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Dorsal fins separated; second anal fin spine much shorter than third (Hubbs et al. 1991). Margin of opercle serrate. Caudal fin forked (Robison and Buchanan 1988).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Widespread throughout the Ohio and Mississippi drainages, the Great Lakes region, and southward to the Red River Basin (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: Species has been widely introduced into state, especially into reservoirs (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units for distribution of Morone chrysops 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, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in the southern United States are currently secure (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Abundant in lakes and reservoirs (Burgess 1980).


Mesohabitat: More common in clear rather than turbid waters (Burgess 1980; Ross 2001).



Spawning season: Mid-March - late May; at water temperatures of 12-20 degrees C (Webb and Moss 1968; Ruelle 1971).


Spawning location: Open substratum spawners. Phytolithophils; nonobligatory plant spawner that deposit eggs on submerged items, have late hatching larvae with cement glands in free embryos, have larvae with moderately developed respiratory structures, and have larvae that are photophobic. Typical attribute of phytolithophils includes reproduction in clear water on submerged plants or, if not available, on other submerged items such as logs, gravel, and rocks (Simon 1999; Balon 1981). In relatively shallow water (usually 3 m or less) over rock, boulder, or other coarse substrata, sometimes with covering of filamentous algae (Riggs 1955; Webb and Moss 1968). Small streams or wave-swept points or shoals within reservoirs (Bonn 1952; Riggs 1955).


Reproductive strategy: Nonguarders (Simon 1999). Several males follow a ripe female, bumping her abdominal area with their snouts. Attended by males, female then rises to the surface while turning in circles, then releasing her eggs in a violent twisting motion, which may be fertilized by several males that have remained in close proximity to her. The demersal, adhesive eggs then sink to the bottom, attaching to rocks, boulders, plants, or other surfaces (Webb and Moss 1968). Once spawning is complete, fish leave spawning grounds to return to deep water, spawning can occur during day or night (Riggs 1955).


Fecundity: Very high, with counts of maturing, mature, and ripe ova ranging from 61,700 – 994,000 from Oklahoma and Arkansas; adhesive, mature ova range from 0.57-0.85 mm in diameter (Newton and Kilambi 1973; Baglin and Hill 1977; Burgess 1980). Females release only about half of their ova during the spawning season, and such mature or ripe ova are usually 0.80-0.90 mm in diameter; ova 0.65 mm in diameter and smaller are retained and absorbed (Ruelle 1977).


Age/Size at maturation: 1st or 2nd year; minimum sizes at maturity: females at 262 mm TL and males at 230 mm TL (Newton and Kilambi 1973; Baglin and Hill 1977; Ross 2001).


Migration: Potamodromus species that homes, often in unisexual schools, to spawning sites on shoals and in streams in spring (Burgess 1980). Fish move upstream in early spring, when water temperatures are above 7-13°C, with males preceding females onto spawning grounds by at times at least a month; movement from either large rivers or reservoirs into small streams for spawning (Riggs 1955; Webb and Moss 1968).


Growth and population structure: Growth is rapid (Burgess 1980). Growth varies depending on regions and conditions. By the end of the first summer, young average 74-126 mm SL (Bonn 1952). Fish in the southeast averaged 190-216 mm TL after year one, 242-364 mm after year two, 295-401 mm after year three, 424-427 mm at year four, and 440 mm at year 5 (Webb and Moss 1968; Yellayi and Kilambi 1976).


Longevity: Most fish do not live beyond five years, with a maximum for southeastern fish of nine years (Webb and Moss 1968; Yellayi and Kilambi 1976).


Food habits: Invertivore/carnivore (Goldstein and Simon 1999). Food habits vary with developmental stage as well as the season (Clark and Pearson 1979). Protolarvae from 7-12 mm SL consume the larvae of other fishes, copepods, cladocerans, and midge larvae (Clark and Pearson 1979). Juveniles from 48-120 mm TL do not consume as much fish at this size as in other stages of life; instead main food items include cladocerans, midge larvae, copepods, and water bugs (Corixidae; Bonn 1952; Matthews et al. 1992). Larger juveniles from 120-250 mm TL begin feeding on increasing numbers of fishes, including young sunfishes (Lepomis), crappies (Pomoxis), minnows (Cyprinidae), silversides (Atherinopsidae), and mosquitofishes (Gambusia); however cladocerans and midge larvae remain an important part of the diet. Sight plays a much larger role than smell in feeding (Greene 1962); therefore most feeding, especially for smaller fish, takes place in daylight hours (Voightlander and Wissing 1974). Larger juveniles continue to feed after sundown, progressively shifting from small plankton to larger fish prey as the daylight diminishes (Voightlander and Wissing 1974; Van Den Avyle et al. 1983). Adults larger than 260 mm TL feed mainly on fishes, yet aquatic insects are important in diet during the spring. Threadfin (Dorosoma petenense) and gizzard (Dorosoma cepedianum) shads are main prey items in reservoirs, with basses (Centrarchidae), crappies (Pomoxis), sunfishes (Lepomis), and silversides (Atherinopsidae) consumed at times. Adults do most of their feeding at dawn and dusk, but also feed throughout the day, many times with a midafternoon rise in this activity (Webb and Moss 1968; Olmstead and Kilambi 1971).             


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

The white bass differs from striped bass (Micropterus puntulatus) and from white bass X striped bass hybrids by having a single rounded patch of teeth on the tongue, in contrast to two elongate patches. It differs from the yellow bass (Morone mississippiensis) in having the two dorsal fins separate (versus connected by a membrane) and having a higher anal ray count (11-13 versus 9-10) and by having the 3rd anal spine longer than the 2nd (versus all 3 spines roughly the same length; Ross 2001).


Host Records



Commercial or Environmental Importance

Highly sought-after sport fish (Ross 2001).




Balon, E. K. 1981. Additions and amendments to the classification of reproductive styles in fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 6:377-389.

Baglin, R. E., Jr., and L. G. Hill. 1977. Fecundity of the white bass, Morone chrysops (Rafinesque), in Lake Texoma. Amer. Midl. Nat. 98(1):233-238.

Bonn, E. W. 1952. The food and growth rate of young white bass (Morone chrysops) in Lake Texoma. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 82:213-221.

Burgess, G.H. 1980.  Morone chrysops (Rafinesque), White bass. pp.574 in D. S. Lee, et al.  Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes.  N.C. State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, i-r+854pp.

Clark, A. L., and W. D. Pearson. 1979. Early piscivory in postlarvae of the white bass. Proc. S.E. Assoc. Fish Wildl. Agencies 32:409-414.

Cook. F. A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Fame and Fish Commission, Jackson. 239 pp.

Evermann, B. W. 1899. Report on investigations by the U.S. Fish Commission in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, in 1897. Rept. U.S. Fish Comm. 24:287-310.

Goldstein, R.M., and T.P. Simon. 1999. Toward a united definition of guild structure for feeding ecology of North American freshwater fishes. pp. 123-202 in T.P. Simon, editor. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Greene, G.N. 1962. White bass feeding: scent or sight. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 91(3):326.

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. The Texas Journal of Science, Supplement, 43(4):1-56

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

Newton, S. H. and R. V. Kilambi. 1973. Fecundity of white bass, Morone chrysops (Rafinesque), in Beaver Reservoir, Arkansas. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 102(2):446-448.

Olmstead, L. L. and R. V. Kilambi. 1971. Interrelationships between environmental factors and feeding biology of white bass of Beaver Reservoir, Arkansas, pp. 397-409. In: Reservoir fisheries and limnology. G. E. Hall, ed. Spec. Publ., no. 8, American Fisheries Society, Washington, D.C.

Pflieger, W. L. 1997. The Fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, 372 pp.

Rafinesque, C. S. 1820. Ichthyologia Ohiensis, or natural history of the fishes inhabiting the River Ohio and its tributary streams, preceded by a physical description of the Ohio and its branches. W. G. Hunt, Lexington, Ky. West Rev. Misc. Mag. 1:361-377.

Riggs, C. D. 1955. Reproduction of the white bass, Morone chrysops. Invest. Ind. Lakes and Streams 4(3):158-159.

Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 536 pp.

Ross, S. T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson. 624 pp.

Ruelle, R. 1971. Factors influencing growth of white bass in Lewis and Clark Lake, pp 411-423. In: Reservoir fisheries and limnology. G. E. Hall, ed. Spec. Publ., no. 8, American Fisheries Society, Washington, D.C.

Simon, T. P. 1999. Assessment of Balon’s reproductive guilds with application to Midwestern North American Freshwater Fishes, pp. 97-121. In: Simon, T.L. (ed.). Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida. 671 pp.

Van Den Avyle, M. J., B. J. Higginbotham, B. T. James, and F. J. Bulow. 1983. Habitat preferences and food habits of young-of-the-year striped bass, white bass, and yellow bass in Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee. N. Amer. J. Fish. Managm. 3(2):163-170.

Voightlander, C. W., and T. E. Wissing. 1974. Food habits of young and yearling bass, Morone chrysops (Rafinesque) in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin. Trans, Amer. Fish. Soc. 103(1):25-31.


Warren, M.L., Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H. L. Bart, Jr., R. C. Cashner, D. A. Etnier, B. J. Freeman, B. R. Kuhajda, R. L. Mayden, H. W. Robison, S. T. Ross, and W. C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries 25(10):7-29.

Webb, J. F., and D. D. Moss. 1968. Spawning behavior and age and growth of white bass in Central Hill Reservoir, Tennessee. Proc. S.E. Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 21:343-357.

Whitehead, P.J.P., and A.C. Wheeler. 1966. The generic names used for the sea basses of Europe and North America (Pisces: Serranidae). Ann. Mus. Civ. Storia. Nat. Genova [1966-67] 76:23-41.

Yellayi, R. R., and R. V. Kilambi. 1976. Population dynamics of white bass in Beaver Reservoir, Arkansas. Proc. S.E. Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 29:172-184.