Smallmouth Bass Colors

Posted by Al Agnew on April 22nd, 2010
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I’ve taken a lot of photos of smallmouth I’ve caught to use in my paintings, and so I have a variety of color phases. Smallmouth can and do change color either to match their surroundings or their mood–they can make their dark bars and spots appear or disappear, go darker or lighter, have red eyes or dark eyes, even change the general color of their bodies. Here are a bunch of photos showing different colors:

First of all, smaller fish often tend to be more brightly colored than big, old fish. Here’s a beautifully colored little one:  Note the many small orange spots on the sides.

Here’s a youngster that is extremely light in color–this fish was caught out in the open in shallow water and bright sunlight.

Here’s a bit larger fish, but extremely rich brown in color–this fish was caught on the upper Meramec.

This is a fish caught last week on Flat Creek near Jenkins–note the red eye and light, bright color. The water was clear and shallow where this one was caught.

Here are two fish caught on Huzzah Creek. This first one was under a log in shadow but in clear, shallow water.

This one was caught in the same place a year earlier…it could possibly even be the same fish. But it was out in the open, and by the time I got it in the dark markings were very pronounced.

Winter fish are often very light in color because the gravel of most streams is a lot cleaner and brighter in the winter and the fish change colors to match it. This is a winter fish from Current River.

However, this is an autumn fish from the same stretch of the Current–it’s also pretty light. Note the clear, white bellies on these light colored fish.

Here’s a beautifully marked, dark, late autumn fish from the Meramec.

And this one is a winter fish from the same section.

A big fish from upper Big River, beautifully but subtly marked.

Another fish from the same section of Big River, this one practically unmarked.

A very olive-bronze Meramec fish.

A fish from murky water on the lower Bourbeuse.

Two pretty big fish from my trip this week on the Mississippi trib, this first one is in the 20 inch class. Note the dark red in the eye.

This one is lighter, came from murkier water farther down the creek…note the brighter red eye.

Here’s a very grayish brass fish from the mine waste section of Big River, caught over a bottom covered with the grayish mine tailings. Note the dark eyes, even though the fish is light overall.

This one is very unmarked, with red eyes, caught from a small creek.

Another, much bigger, smooth unmarked fish from the Gasconade.

And finally, an interesting red-eyed fish with a very dark tail portion. This dark tail is more often seen in green sunfish and rock bass, and is believed to be a result of heavy metal contamination in the water.


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