There are two distinct species of the black bass, which are so near alike that it is hard to distinguish one from the other, unless they are together. The observable difference then is, that the Oswego bass has a more forked tail, is thicker at the shoulder, has coarser scales and larger mouth. This latter fish is found in great abundance in Lake Ontario and particularly at the mouth of Oswego river, which gives him his name. He also frequents other streams which flow into Ontario. The black bass is abundant in Lake Erie, and a few of them have found their way into Ontario, probably by way of the canal, as it is not supposed that any one could survive the fearful descent of Niagara Falls. These two fish are alike in their habits and peculiarities. A third species of black bass in Lake Huron, grow larger than the Oswego species, which seldom exceed fifteen or sixteen inches in length, but is chubby-shaped, being five inches broad, and two or more in thickness. The black color of this fish extends the whole length of the back and sides, growing lighter as it comes towards the belly, and in some cases of a yellowish and sometimes of a greenish hue. It generally feeds on small fish, which it takes in head-foremost, and it is this habit that enables the angler to hook them easily. It will bite, at certain seasons, at lobster, and muscles; and a peculiar artificial fly is also used, at times, with success.
This fish begins to bite at Tonnawanda in the latter part of May, and at Oswego early in June, and at about the same time in the more western lakes. They continue to afford good sport for a couple of months, the time for fishing them being early in the morning and after four in the afternoon. In August they are spawning, and will not usually bite at all, and if caught are poor affairs. In September and October they may be taken again, and some fine ones are caught in the latter month.
The tackle used for fishing black bass is similar to that described for striped bass, viz: a stout pliable rod, with reel, and some two hundred feet or more of flax or grass line, with a gut leader four or five feet in length, and a Limerick or Kirby hook. For bait, live minnows are the best for large fish. Fix your hook through the eyes of the minnow with extreme care not to touch the brain, and he will swim almost as lively as ever. In some parts of Michigan small sun fish are used as follows. After running the hook through the end of the nose of the small fish, conceal its point with an angle worm. On being thrown into the water, other sunfish will throng round the captive, being attracted by the worm. The bass darts suddenly among them, and while those that are free escape to shallow water, the bait is seized by the head, and the bass is thus easily hooked. After hooking your bass, it is not always that you catch him. Indeed he is the most uneasy fish imaginable to be hauled out of the water; and his vigorous and pertinacious struggles for liberty make the sport of fishing him excellent. After being hooked, the bass will often rise to the surface and leap into the air, shaking himself violently to dislodge the hook. At other times he will turn suddenly towards the angler, slacking the line, and in this way detaching himself from the hook by floundering about. It is, therefore, necessary to be careful to keep your line taut by means of the reel; and with proper care and expertness in this respect you will land your fish. A large artificial fly of gay appearance, is also an excellent bait, and next to the live minnow. You can usually get the fly at a fishing tackle store, or if you make it yourself, the body should be of peacock feather, and scarlet wings tipped with white pigeon feathers. The scarlet is what attracts the fish, and be sure to put that on your fly. Small frogs and crawfish are sometimes used for bait; and in May, in the rivers, they will bite angle worms. The bait, in all cases, should be kept in motion, as in that way it attracts the attention of the bass, and he darts at it very suddenly.
Trolling for black bass is excellent sport, and six pounders are sometimes caught in this way. You may use the spoon with good success, or a few white feathers with scarlet cloth fixed up to imitate a gray insect will answer. In Lake George, trolling is the favorite sport, and the bass caught are usually from one to four and a half pounds weight.
In Niagara river, near its confluence with Lake Erie, both black bass and perch are taken in the summer season in untold thousands with the hook and line, both by professional fisherman and amateurs. Trolling is the favorite scientific way of catching them. You take a light, clinker built boat of some twelve or fifteen feet long, at Buffalo or Black River, enter the river a mile below, go down the current three miles to opposite the head of Grand Island, then bait and throw out your hooks, slowly drift down the river near the island shore, and by the time you reach Falconwood, if it is a good day and you are an expert angler, you draw up half a dozen to twenty beautiful bottle green victims, giving you all the play to land them securely in your boat that the most ardent Waltonian would desire. They are from two or four pounds in weight, fat as a clam, and delicious as the shad, or the tautog. This is the very poetry of bass fishing.
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