Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Numbers in Smallmouth Bass 2011

2011 was a great year for me personally fishing in Indiana.

The numbers: 475 hours fished=1601 smallmouth bass and 154 'other' fish. Up from 1486 smallmouth bass and 147 other fish in 2010.

29 different rivers were fished on 95 occasions.

204 smallmouth bass were over 16", up from 146 in 2010.

57 smallmouth bass  were over 18", up from 32 in 2010.

24 smallmouth of which were over 19", up from 12 in 2010

8 of which were 20"-21"tied with 8 in 2010. Less than highs of 11 in 2009 and 2007.

Throughout 2011, I caught smallmouth at a higher rate than previous years, though the heavy November and December fishing bumped the bass per hour rate down below last year. 2010 December was mostly locked up rivers and creeks preventing fishing.

I finished at 3.37 smallmouth per hour (down from 3.44 last year). I think the huge increase in larger fish made up for it, though considering 2010 didn't have much Winter fishing, I came out  ahead.

It took 2.33 hours in 2011 to land a 16"+ smallmouth, 2.95 hours in 2010, 3.4 hours in 2009, 2.78 hours to catch a 16" or larger smallmouth bass in 2008.

It took 8.33 hours to catch a 18' or larger smallmouth bass on average, improved from 13.48 in 2010, 8.28 hours per 18"+ in 2009, 13.71 in 2008.

Comparing 2011 to 2009 as best big fish year, the higher overall bass catch rate of 2011 3.37 per hour vs 2.11 per hour!

2011 wins!

So what was I doing different? Not living on memories of the past. 2007 was a year of 1876 bass, 234 over 16", days of 10 or more 16" fish, fish everywhere.

Floods of 2008 changed things, smallies are no longer in many of the same places as habitat was ripped away and continued to decay. I've cherry picked the best stretches over 5 years of research. I've honed in on the best wintering holes for better Winter fishing.

What does all this numbering crunching do? I can see my improvement as a fisherman, what areas produce better #'s, size, see population improvements or declines.

I'm starting to form a very clear picture in my head, the type of stream habitat that allows continued solid fish populations.

One of the gravest threats to smallmouth populations, is the loss of their 'homes'. Homes are places they shelter from severe conditions- undercut banks, sycamore roots, rocky rip-rap points, lay downs, wide flats during floods vs high banks. Once these are gone or non existent, a small piece of log or rocks could have been all that made a spot a hog home. Once removed and filled in....

The above has become a pattern for me across Indiana. These once awesome stretches have lost significant fish populations. The answer? Wide pools where fish can easily slip into and out of the woods with high water. Easy access to feeder creeks. Lots of in stream jagged rock structure unfilled by silt. Respite.

Across the midwest, the complaint has gone up that many rivers have lost populations. Anything from river otters to people harvesting fish. My own studies say river otters are on a couple rivers and does not explain the exact same decreased populations across the state(s). In almost every case, you have these smallmouth 'homes' destroyed or filled in.

Good news for these less bountiful stretches is we had a couple of good spawns recently it really does seem like a nice crop of 8-11" fish are coming up.


  1. There's a hint of obsessive compulsive disorder here, but as a scientist and data junkie, this is really interesting stuff. I could never be this organized, but I'm glad you are! And you've got me really intrigued - on my lunch our today, I bought a bunch of jigs and floats!

  2. Of course, TJ. Not patting myself, but I'd imagine most major breakthroughs in science, math, etc were by obsessive types. What keeps people poking their noses into the unknown? An 'unhealthy' desire to know far too much.

    Same token, what makes your favorite team desire to win? Dedication.

    I've always sought to know a lot about useless things, so here we go again. Something I can dive full into and not make a dime from.

  3. I'm impressed, and pleased, that you fished so many Indiana rivers. I grew up on the southeast side of Indianapolis (Franklin Township), and I didn't even know we HAD 29 rivers! (I'm in Ohio now).

  4. Moment of weakness here. I don't know how many lifetime Indiana streams I've caught smallmouth bass in since 2004 when I started. North of 50, If I'd guess. Mostly, if rivers/creeks/streams are big enough not to dry up, there are bass in them. Our dirty secret, don't tell the general public;)

    Addicted to hunting out that next gold plated ultra hog stretch on river x. Occasionaly get a snear from bass tournament types for fishing small water or being without $$$ boat. I like the adventure of on foot stream fishing. Keeps in shape. Not uncommon to wade 3-8 miles in Summer. Exploring, plus exercise, plus solitude, plus manual dexterity challenge, observational skills when you are in the thick of it, nature, ....awesome. Wouldn't give it up for a bass boat if someone gave it to me.

  5. Happy New Year, Brenden. Hoping to hit some Midwest waters before January is out.

    Looking forward to reading you in 2012.

  6. You too, Tim. Let me know when you are going to be back in the area, we'll try for some cold western Indiana piggies!