The Bass Question:
In a recent Horsefly River Roundtable report I was quoted as saying: “Large lake trout, burbot, rainbows; nothing survives the bass once they gain access to any watershed and establish themselves.”
This was in fact from information I received from our DFO representative on the Roundtable, however, I did receive a couple of communications from people I respect who questioned whether this was in fact true.
Until this point in time, I had not researched the question at hand but relied on my sources of information.
After an extensive search on the internet, and reading several lengthy reports on bass coexistence with other species at other locations, I still believe there is cause for concern.
Bass do coexist with at least 26 other species of fish in Lake Champlain, however, this might not occur if there wasn’t an annual stocking of 700,000 salmon and trout, and there is evidence of smallmouth bass coexisting with at least eight other species including walleye, northern pike, lake trout, splake, burbot, lake whitefish, and brown trout at Chequamegon Bay in Lake Superior.
This is deemed possible because the annual prey fish biomass greatly exceeds annual predator consumption; and it seems that smallmouth bass coexist with at least 18 other species in Manitoba lakes and rivers, however, as with B.C., Manitoba stocks their lakes with brook, brown and rainbow trout on an annual basis.
For the most part the reports of bass predation on the available piscivores (prey fish), and consumption thereof seems to limit other predators from flourishing in any great numbers in a limited environment such as the Beaver Lakes area.
In Lake Sammamish, Washington the main bass diet consisted of crayfish and sculpin with the exception of the month of May when migratory salmonids made up to 34 percent of the bass diet, and more alarming a 10 centimetre long bass could consume a three to three and a half centimetre fish which is the size of newly emerged salmonids fry.
So in my opinion, if bass did somehow manage to inhabit the Horsefly River system, our salmon stocks as well as native trout would be in jeopardy.
I did learn several interesting facts regarding bass which might make controlling them possible.
Bass do not feed during winter when water temperature falls below 10 Celsius nor do they spawn when in cooler conditions, so if winter conditions could be extended through snow stockpiling at various locations in the Beaver Valley creek system then perhaps many bass would simply die of starvation because of the low water temperature extension.
Across its range 114 parasites have been identified in smallmouth bass including the bass tapeworm which can cause sterility or seriously affect reproduction in the smallmouth bass; another method of thinning out the population, therefore, would be to seed the bass areas with bass tapeworm if indeed this could be accomplished.
In the B.C. interior, adult bass feed mainly on redside shiners, peamouth, and chiselmouth, as well as macroinvertebrates, mainly crayfish.
I do not agree with any idea of poisoning the lakes and killing everything with rotenone, simply because the terrain is against any chance for this to be completely effective.
Everything including all crustaceans would be killed as well as birds, animals, and all other signs of life would disappear because most of the feed would be dead.
The environmental effect would be far reaching, and some bass might still survive.
I believe as has been pointed out to me by some very intelligent sources that all this conjecturing might well be a moot point, as global warming is occurring, and with rising water temperatures, bass will migrate and survive despite our best efforts.
After all this research which is only the tip of the iceberg, I have come to the conclusion that the bass are here to stay, and that DFO should open fishing of bass to the general public so at least some benefit would result.
They are good eating.