This forum is for general topics. Keep all posts, images, etc safe for those who read the forum at work. Post only that content that you'd want your mama to read. Violators will be banned.
User avatar
By mrl0004
#689608
Alabama the Beautiful. I used to think it was just a slogan. I mean, besides football, pine plantations, and large bass lakes I wasn't really sure what was so beautiful about it. That was until I discovered redeye bass, the smallest of the black bass species. Chasing them has led me to places that I never would have knew existed otherwise. Seeing the places they call home, some of the last vestiges of truly wild and rugged country left in the southeast, has led me to work tirelessly advocating for them and the waters they swim in. I'm not sure which I enjoy more, the scenery or the fishing, but the point is that either one makes the trip worthwhile.

Redeye bass are native to a small handful of rivers in the southeast. They have been stocked in a few others to improve the sport fishing quality of those waters, an idea which may have seemed good at the time, but as we now know this can be extremely detrimental to wild and native populations. Regardless, if you want to fish for them in their native habitat, there's a shortlist of creeks and streams where you can do so. They all have different issues ranging from pollution, habitat fragmentation, urbanization, and of course hybridization with other black bass. The latter has been a hot topic, usually among native and introduced populations, but is increasingly becoming more of a potential danger between co-existing native populations.

As recently as 2013, redeye bass have been shown to be a unique species in each of the drainages where they are native. This has been great for fisherman, because that means we want to go catch them all! More on that later...

Fishing for them is a lot like blue lining for brook trout in the southern Appalachians. You are fishing small streams for a fish that rarely grows over a foot in length and maxes out around 1.5-2lbs. However, the experience of fishing for them is the real trophy, or rather getting to hold a black bass with colors like no other.

The first native drainage is one that I've fished the most. The options range from the southernmost end of the Appalachians in Alabama...
Coosa1.jpg
Coosa1.jpg (190.55 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa2.jpg
Coosa2.jpg (104.11 KiB) Viewed 779 times
To a little further down in the Piedmont region....
Coosa3.jpg
Coosa3.jpg (159.42 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa4.jpg
Coosa4.jpg (96.03 KiB) Viewed 779 times
One of my favorite places is a good drive way up into the hills...
Coosa6.jpg
Coosa6.jpg (47.85 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa6b.jpg
Coosa6b.jpg (167.78 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa6c.jpg
Coosa6c.jpg (179.93 KiB) Viewed 779 times
It takes a little effort to get to...
Coosa6j.jpg
Coosa6j.jpg (198.83 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Once on the stream you quickly realize this is like no other fishing in Alabama...
Coosa6d.jpg
Coosa6d.jpg (175.36 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Every little plunge pool likely contains a hungry redeye bass...
Coosa6e.jpg
Coosa6e.jpg (168.2 KiB) Viewed 779 times
These guys are super aggressive, you'll know within the first 5 seconds of your fly hitting the water if they're there or not...
Coosa6f.jpg
Coosa6f.jpg (102.4 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa6g.jpg
Coosa6g.jpg (149.53 KiB) Viewed 779 times
The colors are a nice blue hue throughout. Very different than other bass.

They aren't the only critter in these streams though, so I always keep an eye out...
Coosa6i.jpg
Coosa6i.jpg (151.22 KiB) Viewed 779 times


The places these fish live are truly special....
Coosa6k.jpg
Coosa6k.jpg (168.45 KiB) Viewed 779 times

Too be continued.....
Attachments:
Coosa6h.jpg
Coosa6h.jpg (157.25 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa5e.jpg
Coosa5e.jpg (125.16 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa5d.jpg
Coosa5d.jpg (149.55 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa5c.jpg
Coosa5c.jpg (178.27 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa5b.jpg
Coosa5b.jpg (101.63 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Coosa5.jpg
Coosa5.jpg (168.7 KiB) Viewed 779 times
Last edited by mrl0004 on Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By mrl0004
#689609
Another river that redeye bass are native to, runs right through the heart of Birmingham. Good luck finding any in the main river though, you have to get in the tributaries for the real action. the redeye bass in this stream always seem a little bigger...
P3230159.jpg
P3230159.jpg (166.45 KiB) Viewed 777 times
P3230075.jpg
P3230075.jpg (134.8 KiB) Viewed 777 times
P3230110.jpg
P3230110.jpg (95.8 KiB) Viewed 777 times
P3230138.jpg
P3230138.jpg (98.5 KiB) Viewed 777 times
User avatar
By mrl0004
#689610
There are subtle differences between the first two species of redeye bass mentioned above and this one. However, a little studying and you start to recognize color and pattern differences that are discernible without having to get into scale counts, etc. The interesting thing about this species is that they live in the main river, in fact, they're pretty plentiful in the main river. I have also caught my biggest two redeye ever here, both 12.5" long. That's like a 20" smallmouth, because these are also the slowest growing black bass species.
P9290003.jpg
P9290003.jpg (113.98 KiB) Viewed 775 times
IMG_5816.jpg
IMG_5816.jpg (91.94 KiB) Viewed 775 times
Had a float trip with a friend where we were holding an event to raise awareness for redeye bass. The rain made things interesting, but nice fish were caught...
P6220100.jpg
P6220100.jpg (159.63 KiB) Viewed 775 times
P6220038.jpg
P6220038.jpg (123.04 KiB) Viewed 775 times
P6220037.jpg
P6220037.jpg (130.51 KiB) Viewed 775 times
This guy went completely airborne while eating the popper...
P6220057.jpg
P6220057.jpg (101.38 KiB) Viewed 775 times
P6220086.jpg
P6220086.jpg (92.93 KiB) Viewed 775 times
P6220092.jpg
P6220092.jpg (123.04 KiB) Viewed 775 times
Can't forget the lunch of champions...
P6220103.jpg
P6220103.jpg (97.05 KiB) Viewed 775 times
User avatar
By mrl0004
#689611
The last of the 4 redeye bass strongholds in Alabama is one of my favorite. Not only are they genetically different from all other redeye species, but to me they are the most clearly distinguished by coloration. They have orange coloration on their anal and caudal fins, which is actually diagnostic for that species. Their waters are also some of the most beautiful in Alabama.

This species is likely the most imperiled in Alabama due to their range overlapping with the largest coal mines in Alabama. Their range is greatly reduced from a few decades ago.

The trip starts out as most on redeye waters....

Dirt roads and higher elevation
P7170140.jpg
P7170140.jpg (73.32 KiB) Viewed 772 times
Once on the water, it doesn't take long to find your quarry...
P6170685.jpg
P6170685.jpg (107.7 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7180450.jpg
P7180450.jpg (89.27 KiB) Viewed 772 times
The water is usually crystal clear...
P6180738.jpg
P6180738.jpg (183.16 KiB) Viewed 772 times
And the fish hungry...
P7170191.jpg
P7170191.jpg (109.93 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7180446.jpg
P7180446.jpg (60.53 KiB) Viewed 772 times
The deeper you go, the more beautiful and scenic the river gets. No surprise, the fish get bigger too!
P6180812.jpg
P6180812.jpg (193.97 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P6180821.jpg
P6180821.jpg (94.39 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7180263.jpg
P7180263.jpg (97.78 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7180274.jpg
P7180274.jpg (135.73 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7180385.jpg
P7180385.jpg (93.54 KiB) Viewed 772 times
These fish eat a lot of aquatic insects, and a quick look streamside will show you why...
P6180918.jpg
P6180918.jpg (64.88 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7180477.jpg
P7180477.jpg (81.21 KiB) Viewed 772 times


User avatar
By mrl0004
#689612
As you cross over into Georgia, the fish get a little more colorful. This is probably the most colorful redeye bass species. Again, the fin coloration is diagnostic for this species.
P7300508.jpg
P7300508.jpg (76.85 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7300524.jpg
P7300524.jpg (101.37 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7310542.jpg
P7310542.jpg (94.89 KiB) Viewed 772 times
P7310551.jpg
P7310551.jpg (129.35 KiB) Viewed 772 times
Oddly enough, the local breweries, Orvis, and TU chapter throws millions of dollars into the put and take trout fishery while native redeye bass and shoal bass are being extirpated from right under our nose. I simply don't get it.
Attachments:
P7310574.jpg
P7310574.jpg (133.48 KiB) Viewed 772 times
Last edited by mrl0004 on Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
By chadroc
#689613
man, that is so damn good. such an interesting fish swimming in beautiful waters. thanks so much for sharing.
User avatar
By mrl0004
#689614
Continuing across Georgia, another species is less colorful, but still a redeye that lives in beautiful places...
PB220030.jpg
PB220030.jpg (83.88 KiB) Viewed 771 times
PB220053.jpg
PB220053.jpg (93.72 KiB) Viewed 771 times
As we move further across Georgia and even into South Carolina, the last of the 7 species of redeye bass is in the most danger of all due to hybridization with non-native Alabama bass, smallmouth bass, etc. At every sampling there are less and less pure redeye bass, or Bartram's bass as their commonly called here.
P7050121.jpg
P7050121.jpg (142.23 KiB) Viewed 771 times
P7050120.jpg
P7050120.jpg (155.17 KiB) Viewed 771 times
P7050106.jpg
P7050106.jpg (92.26 KiB) Viewed 771 times
The tributaries are the last strongholds, but most agree it's only a matter of time.
P7040044.jpg
P7040044.jpg (181.59 KiB) Viewed 771 times
P7040020.jpg
P7040020.jpg (100.02 KiB) Viewed 771 times
Streamside bonuses are always welcome...
P7040065.jpg
P7040065.jpg (204.13 KiB) Viewed 771 times
Attachments:
P7050008.jpg
P7050008.jpg (165.42 KiB) Viewed 771 times
User avatar
By mrl0004
#689615
If you're still with me, by now you know these fish live in pristine waters and aren't exactly going to win any size competitions. However, they need some serious conservation measures and at the very least some awareness. I'm doing all I can, but my hope is that you'll come see for yourself.

I wrote a book with that very purpose, and I'm pleased to say it's done way better than I ever thought it would. This is like niche fishing within a niche of fishing. Somehow, the numbers continue to grow...
IMG_6153.jpg
IMG_6153.jpg (127.38 KiB) Viewed 765 times
Kind of piggybacking off the book, a few friends and I started a grass roots movement a while back where we challenged fly anglers to catch all 7 species in a calendar year, or all 4 species native to the Mobile Basin (in Alabama). The prize is a custom certificate drawn by one of the crew.

We had a kick-off event at a local brewery in Birmingham to go over the rules, educate folks about redeye bass, and explain why they need our help. We had a raffle of prizes donated from local folks with all proceeds going to our local riverkeeper organization. To our surprise, we had 80 people show up.
IMG_0233.jpg
IMG_0233.jpg (137.25 KiB) Viewed 765 times
IMG_0232.jpg
IMG_0232.jpg (64.32 KiB) Viewed 765 times
IMG_8133.jpg
IMG_8133.jpg (136.44 KiB) Viewed 765 times
IMG_0229.jpg
IMG_0229.jpg (96.99 KiB) Viewed 765 times
We raised $2,600 that day, which may not sound like a lot, but for an event in Alabama about fly fishing for redeye bass, it was huge. Really excited to see how we can grow that into something even bigger.

On a more personal note, after writing the book, speaking at numerous fly fishing clubs, river societies, etc., I decided that I needed to do more. After 10 years of working in human genetics, I decided to go back to school and get a PhD in genetics studying hybridization in redeye bass and other species. Not an easy thing to do with a wife and a 10-month old, but we did and so far I'm glad I did. This is going to be an interesting few years!
IMG_7542.jpg
IMG_7542.jpg (78.12 KiB) Viewed 765 times
IMG_7543.jpg
IMG_7543.jpg (177.63 KiB) Viewed 765 times
IMG_8163.jpg
IMG_8163.jpg (102.83 KiB) Viewed 765 times
IMG_8385.jpg
IMG_8385.jpg (120.31 KiB) Viewed 765 times
Hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed doing it all. If you know someone high up in Trout Unlimited, Native Fish Society, etc., I would love for them to be aware of redeye bass and hopefully fund some work in native bass work. There are other sport fish out there that aren't salmonids that need love!
Attachments:
IMG_5115.jpg
IMG_5115.jpg (147.14 KiB) Viewed 765 times
User avatar
By root wad
#689617
A world I never knew existed and will probably never see. I can see why it draws you and really appreciate knowing populations like that still find a way to hang on if someone cares enough to look. That is good stuff right there.
#689622
All good stuff Matt. Keep fighting the good fight and learn what you can. Thanks again for introducing me to these awesome fish.

Why aren’t there redeyes in the main river in the river near Birmingham? Are the Alabama bass out competing them there?

I’m most likely going to be coming up one more time this year in a couple of weeks to try and finish the Mobile slam and catch the Coosa and Cahaba subspecies.
User avatar
By ...
#689626
So you have reached the pintical of sell out...be a guide...boat renter....flyshop hot spotter... Take what you have learned from sportsmen and make it into a trade... Good luck and fuck off...
WTF, Hieronymus

Right on. Tell these losers what is up, braddah.[…]

Thumbing Through Some SBSs

Denson’s Farmer Palmer https://live.st[…]

Impeachment pool

I puts yur flies in the fishes mouth for you http[…]

A Confession

The forecast called for rain, and it's a two mile […]

Subsribe to The Drake Magazine