AKA: redeye, google eye, google eyed perch, rock sunfish, Branch Perch, green sunfish.
Three subspecies: A. Arimmus The Shadow Bass, A. Cavifrons, The Roanoke Bass and A. Constellatus, The Ozark Bass.
The Rock Bass is a popular game fish often caught inadvertently by anglers hoping to catch other species of fish that inhabit the same waters. These “Bass” are really members of the sunfish family, but has five to seven anal fin spines, instead of the usual three of the other sunfishes. They are olive green to bronze brown in color, have distinctive red eyes, a silver to white belly and rows of dark blotches covering the body. In some waters they develop a bluish hue.
The Rock Bass usually prefers clear hard water of large lakes and streams with gravely or rocky bottoms, but also inhabits many small lakes with muddy weedy areas. They will move to deeper water in the middle of the day and during the cold months.
The fish range from Manitoba and Ontario in Canada down throughout the Great Lakes region, to the Atlantic coast in the East. The species is abundant in the Mississippi river valley south to the Gulf of Mexico.
In the spring when the waters warm to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, Rock Bass breed in the shallows in as little as a few inches of water. The male will clear a nest of eight to ten inches in diameter and when a female happens by, she will slowly deposit a few eggs at a time to be fertilized. The whole process can take up to an hour and after the eggs are laid, the female will leave and the male will stay to guard the nest. The fry hatch in three to four days and become free swimming in less than a week. The fish reaches maturity at three years and is generally four to eight ounces in weight and generally about five to eight inches in length. Few live longer than eight to ten years.
This sunfish has a large mouth and is eager to strike. As a result, they are able take lures too big for typical bluegills and other sunfish. Their normal diet consists of insect, crayfish and other small fish but because of their inclination to try to eat almost anything that moves, artificial lures are significantly effective for catching this fish.
Like most fish in the waters it inhabits, the rock bass is likely to feed in the early morning or late evening in the shallows among reed beds, rocky outcrops and downed trees. Casting into these areas can be brainlessly effective for not only this fish but many other species as well. Live bait, like minnows, crawlers and leaches all work well with a light jig head to avoid snags. Artificial grubs and spinners with a small fly combination are very effective. It often swims in groups, so casting in the same area will produce multiple fish. Don’t be surprised if you think you are catching the same fish, you may be.
The fish doesn’t put up much of a fight and it tires easily, but catching fish is fun. Often the fish caught in small, muddy lakes aren’t good eating because they are mealy, but I have heard that Rock Bass caught in large clear lakes and streams can be surprisingly good table fare.
The world record Rock Bass is Three Pounds no ounces, once in 1974 by a man named Peter Gulgin on the York River in Ontario Canada but I have found a record of a man named David L. Weber from Lake City, PA that caught a three pound two ounce fish in 1971. Like most fish stories, controversy abounds.