Hey, Where You From? Origins Of The Smallmouth Bass

Lake Huron

This historical account of the origin of smallmouth bass is an excerpt from Lost Secrets of The Smallmouth Bass, found on Amazon Kindle and can be found here: Lost Secrets of The Smallmouth Bass (Annotated) on Amazon

Although the smallmouth bass is essentially a product of the Great Lakes of Canada, yet, during the past century, it has been introduced artificially into so many parts of North America, and so few records have been kept of its distribution, that it is difficult now to trace its genealogy, except to a very limited extent.

Frank Forrester (1849), in a book entitled Fish and Fishing, says that this fish is peculiar to the basin of the Saint Lawrence and the Great Lakes, and found its way into the Hudson River through the Erie canal; he makes no mention of its having been taken anywhere in the United States, but refers to others who said that it had been caught in some places in the State of New York.

There is evidence, also, that in 1854, W . W. Shriver put the first bass into the Potomac ; and that there were no bass in the State of New York prior to the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825.

If we probe still further back into the past, we find that the Jesuit missionaries first used, in 1655, the word “achigan” to designate this fish; and, in view of the fact that this is of Ojibway origin, and that the Ojibway tribe were, at that period, inhabitants of the northern shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior, it seems probable that the bass were natives of these waters.

It may be noted here that the word “achigan” is still used in its original sense by the French-Canadians; it corresponds exactly to the French word bas, meaning a stocking. Whether or not it was applied to the bass by the Ojibways, from any similarity of form, or of pronunciation, is an interesting question for philologists.

It is to be noted, also, that Claude Dablon, who was a careful observer of Nature, states, in his relation of 1671, that the region about Lake Huron was the most noted for its abundance of fish, since, as he says in savage parlance, this is its native country. (C’est la ou est son pays.) It is to be supposed that he includes, in this statement, the achigan, with which he was perfectly familiar.

In addition to the foregoing facts, exact scientific investigation showed that the smallmouth bass, unlike its relative, the largemouth bass, flourishes in clean water of a temperature varying from 50° F. to 60° F.

In the 1800s the Smallmouth bass was transported by an evolving train system to areas where it was previously unknown and was not native.

It used to be thought that temperature changes, even a few degrees, outside of these limits, would cause these fish to rapidly disappear.

We shall not be far astray, therefore, if we locate the birth-place of the smallmouth bass somewhere in the waters of Georgian Bay, which, on account of its peculiar formation and great extent, and in spite of the ravages of fishermen and anglers, may still be regarded as its home.

At the present day, it is to be found in abundance in some portions of the Great Lakes, and particularly in Georgian Bay.

ERie pig

In Canada, it is found chiefly in the province of Ontario, south of the height of land which separates the waters flowing into the river Ottawa from those which flow into Lake Huron.

It is not a native of the eastern provinces, but has been artificially propagated in most Canadian provinces.

Interesting historical fact:  It had been transplanted in England and Germany, small fry three inches in length having been carried across the ocean in tanks specially prepared for the purpose; but many died on the way owing to the difficulty of keeping the water, during the long journey, aerated and cool. The fish seem to have thriven well for some time but finally died out, probably owing to improper food and lack of attention. In a letter received from the present Marquis of Exeter in August, 1906, he says that some large and smallmouth bass were imported by his grandfather in 1879 and were placed in a small lake on his estate near Stamford. They grew rapidly, some reaching, in a few years, a weight of four or five pounds; but they gradually disappeared, and the last one was seen in 1898 or 1899.

Check out the full Kindle book here: Lost Secrets of The Smallmouth Bass (Annotated) on Amazon

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