Bass (labrax), a family of sea and fresh-water fishes of which there are many well known varieties in American waters. They belong to the division acanthopterygii, or those having spinous fins, to the family of the percidm, or those of the perch type, and have several subgenera, as grystes and centrarchus, which are the most remarkable. Bass of various kinds are found in most of the waters of the world, and are everywhere well esteemed, both as a table fish and by the angler. The principal European variety is the labrax lupus, which has by some writers been confounded with our striped bass, an entirely different fish, first distinguished by Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill of New York. The following are the American varieties: 1. The sea bass, sometimes called blue or black bass (centropristis nigricans). This is purely a sea species, never coming into fresh water. Its general color is blue-black, slightly bronzed. The edges of all the scales are of a darker color than the ground, which gives it the appearance of being covered by a black network. The fins, except the pectoral, are pale blue, the anal and dorsal spotted with a darker shade of the same color. The teeth are set, like those of a carding machine, over all the bones of the mouth, those on the lips the largest.
The dorsal fin has 10 spines, 11 soft rays; the pectorals, 18 soft rays; the ventrals, 1 spine, 5 soft rays; the anal, 3 spines, 7 soft lays; the caudal is trilobed and has 18 soft rays. The weight of the sea bass varies from 1/2 lb. to 17 lbs., the latter very rare. 2. The striped bass (L. lineatus). This is the rock fish of the Delaware and Potomac. Its color is bluish brown above, silvery white below, with from 7 to 9 equidistant, dark, parallel stripes of chocolate brown, those above the lateral line terminating at the base of the caudal fin, those below it fading away above the anal fin. The teeth are numerous on the palatal and maxillary bones, and on the tongue. The 1st dorsal fin has 9 spines; the 2d, 1 spine, 12 soft rays; the pectorals, 16 soft rays; the ventrals, 1 spine, 5 soft rays; the anal, 3 spines, 11 soft rays; the caudal, which is deeply lunated, has 17 soft rays. This fish winters in the deep, warm, muddy sea bays, and runs up the rivers in the spring in pursuit of the smelt, and to devour the shad roe, and in the autumn to spawn. It runs from the size of a smelt up to 50, GO, and 70 lbs. weight.
It is very voracious, excellent on the table, and an especial favorite of the angler. 3. The bar fish (L. notatus), a variety of the fish above described, distinguished from it by Lieut. Col. Smith of the British army. The principal distinction is that the lines on the sides are not continuous, but are broken into spots. 4. The ruddy bass (L. ru-fus). 5. The little white bass (L. pallidus). These are two small and insignificant varieties, not exceeding a few inches in length, known to anglers in the vicinity of New York, where they abound, at about the meeting of the fresh water and the tide, as the river perch and the white perch. - We now come to the purely fresh-water species, which are as follows: 6. The black bass of the lakes (grystes nigricans).
European Bass (Labrax lupus).
Striped Bass (Labrax lineatus).
Black Bass (Grystes nigricans).
Its color is blue-back, glossed with bronze, and marked with darker clouded bandings; belly lighter colored. Both jaws are armed with a broad patch of small, sharp, recurved teeth; the vomer has also a patch, and the palatal bones a belt or band of teeth of the same description. The dorsal fin has 9 spines; the 2d dorsal, 1 spine, 14 soft rays; the pectorals, 18 soft rays; the ventrals, 1 spine, 12soft rays; the caudal, 16 soft rays. It is found everywhere west, from the basin of the St. Lawrence to the tributaries of the Ohio, and has lately been extensively introduced into the waters of New York and New England. It runs from a few inches in length to rarely 8 lbs. weight. It is a bold biter and an excellent fish. 7. The Oswego bass (G. megastoma) is often confounded with the species last described, but is entirely distinct. Its principal feature is the great size of its mouth. It is a thicker fish, and its head is larger as compared to its size. Color, dark greenish blue, lighter on the belly. The dorsal fin has 9 spines, 14 soft rays; the pectorals, 13 soft rays; ventrals, 1 spine, 5 soft rays; anal, 3 spines, 11 soft rays; caudal, 20 soft rays.
It abounds in the bays and river mouths of Lake Erie, bites well at live or dead minnow, and is a good fish, but inferior to the last described variety. 8. White bass (multilineatus), sometimes called white perch, peculiar to Lake Erie and the upper lakes, and very abundant in them. In color it is light olive above and silvery white on the sides and belly, with numerous longitudinal dark lines, the numbers varying in different specimens. This fish has not been scientifically described, so that its dental system and that of its fin rays cannot be given with accuracy. It is said to be an excellent fish on the table, and a bold, voracious biter. 9. The grass bass (centrarchus hexacanthus), sometimes called the roach, also peculiar to Lake Erie, where it is abundant in the small bays and at the river mouths. In color it is spotted or marbled above, with dark shades on a sea-green ground, and on the sides with the same marks on light green or yellow. The sides of the head and body are of an iridescent white, the belly silvery white. Like the preceding fish, it has not been scientifically distinguished or described. Its anal fin is said to be extremely long, and its abdomen consequently very small. Wherever the large-mouthed bass is found this fish is plentiful.
It rarely exceeds 10 inches in length and 2 lbs. in weight. 10. The rock bass (C. aeneus). Its color is dark coppery yellow, banded with irregular darker clouds and green reflections; fins bluish green; teeth small, recurved, on the maxillaries, vomer, palatals, and pharyngeals. The dorsal fin has 11 spines, 12 soft rays; the pectorals, 14 soft rays; the ventrals, 1 spine, 5 soft rays; the anal, 6 spines, 11 soft rays; the caudal, 17 rays. This fish, originally peculiar to the basin of the St. Lawrence, has come down the Erie canal and become common in the Hudson river, where it is freely taken. It rarely exceeds a pound in weight, but is an excellent fish on the table, and affords admirable sport to the angler. 11. The growler (grystes mlmonoei-des), generally called the white salmon in the southern states, closely resembles the black bass in form, but grows larger. It is of a deep bluish green above, lighter below; when young has 25 or 30 longitudinal dark bands, which grow paler by age. The dorsal fin has 10 spines, 14 soft rays; the pectorals, 16 soft rays; the ventrals, 1 spine, 5 soft rays; the anal, 3 spines, 12 soft rays; the caudal, 17 soft rays. This also is said to be a bold biter and a good fish.
With this species ends, so far as is yet ascertained, the list of the bass family proper to American waters, although it is probable that in the course of time future varieties may be discovered in the vast network of lakes and rivers which have not yet been scientifically explored through one fourth of their extent.
Rock Bass (Centarchus aeneus).