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BOOK of the

By James A. Henshall, M. D.











Copyright, 1904,


This edition of the Book of the Black Bass includes
also the Supplement, Moee About the Black Bass,
and is complete in one volume. A new edition of these
books has been necessitated owing to the destruction by
fire of the stereotype plates of the former editions.
Advantage was taken of this circumstance for a thor-
ough revision, whereby much of the text of the old
editions has been eliminated, new matter substituted,
and other features added more in accordance with the
present knowledge of the subject.

The first edition of this book owed its origin to a
long-cherished desire on the part of the author to give
to the black bass species their proper place among game-
fishes, and to create among anglers, and the public
generally, an interest in two fishes that had never been
so fully appreciated as their merits deserved, because
of the want of suitable tackle for their capture, on the
one hand, and a lack of information regarding their
habits and economic value on the other. At the present
day, however, the author's prediction that they would
eventually become the favorite game-fish of America
has been fully verified.

The " Book of the Black Bass " is of an entirely prac-
tical nature regarding its subject-matter and its illus-
trations. It has been written more with a view to
instruct than to amuse or entertain. The reader will,
therefore, look in vain between its covers for those


iv Preface.

rhetorical flights, poetic descriptions, entertaining ac-
counts and pleasing illustrations of the pleasures and
vicissitudes of angling, Avhich are usually found in
works of like character.

In addition to the scientific and life history of both
species of Idack bass, it gives a practical treatise on
angling and fly-fishing, and a full description of all
tools and tackle employed for their capture.

I am under obligation to the Century Company for
the illustrations of " Landing a Double " and the " Still
Fisher." I Avas desirous to use the former inasmuch as
it Avas originally draAvn to illustrate one of my article's
oil black bass fishing, and my friend, the late Prof.
Alfred ^r. Mayer posed for the drawing. I also extend
my tlianks to G. F. Corner for the sketch of the '^ Old
Kentucky Angler. '^

It is as Avell to say that the last addition to the subject
that I intended to make Avas the supplement " More
About the Black Bass ;" the credit is due, therefore, to
The Bobert Clarke Company for this ncAV edition of
my book, Avhicli has risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes
of the former one.

BozEMAN, Montana, April, 1904.






























Scientific History of the Black Bass 3

Nomenclature and IVIorphology 26

General and Special Features of the Black Bass. 45

Coloration of the Black Bass 53

Geographical Distribution of the Black Bass . . 64

Habits of the Black Bass. Spawning, Hatcliing, etc. 74

Intelligence and Special Senses. Sight, Hearing. 92

Stocking Waters with Black Bass Ill



Fishing Rods. Fly-rods, Bait -rods, etc 127

Fishing Reels. Click Reels, Multiplying Reels, etc. 174

Fishing Lines. Fly Lines, Bait Lines, etc 205

SiLK-AVoRM Gut. Leaders, Snells, etc 216

Fish Hooks. Sproat, O'Sbauglinessy, Limerick, etc. 230

Artificial Flies. Winged Flies, Hackles, etc 243

Artificial Baits. Trolling-Spoons, Casting-Spoons. 258
Natural Baits. Minnows, Frogs, Crawfish, etc.... 268
^Miscellaneous Imple:ments. Fly-Books, Creels, etc. 276



The Philosophy of Angling 307

Conditions Go^-erning the Biting of Fish 316

The Black Bass as a Game Fish 338

Fly Fishing. Tackle, Casting, Instructions, etc ... 357
Bait Fishing. Tackle, Casting, Instructions, etc... 385

Still Fishing. Tackle, Baits, Instructions, etc 411

Trolling. Tackle, General Instructions, etc 420

Skittering and Bobbing. Tackle, Instructions, etc. 428
Concluding Remarks. Care of Tackle, Advice, etc. 433







" For my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable
speeches, to foreign nations, and to the next ages." — Bacon.

The scientific history of the black bass is a most unsatis-
factory one. This is owing to a train of accidental cir-
cumstances^ and to the neglect of thorough investigation
of its earliest history, as recorded by Lacepede, the re-
nowned French naturalist, in the original edition of his
great work, " Histoire Naturelle des Poissons."

This representative American fish w^as first brought to
the light of science in a foreign land, and under the most
unfavorable auspices. Its scientific birth was, like Mac-
duff's, untimely; it was, unhappily, born a monstrosity;

* In the first edition of this book an exhaustive review of the
nomenclature and morphology of the black bass species was given,
introducing a number of lengthy papers and references bearing on
the subject. In the present edition the author deems it unneces-
sary to reproduce much of the evidence then used to prove and
corroborate his arguments, inasmuch as his views have been fully
concurred in, and his restoration of Lacepede's names for the two
species has been indorsed and adopted. It is, therefore, deemed
sufficient to present in a concise form, and in chronological order,
the perplexing account of the nomenclature of the species from
their first description by Lacepede to the final restoration of his
generic and specific names.


4 Book of the Black Bass.

its baptismal names were, consequently, incongruous, and
its sponsors were, most unfortunately, foreign naturalists.

Previous to the first edition of this book, in 1881, it
had been considered by American naturalists that the first
scientific description of a black bass was that published
by Lacepede, about the year 1800, in the work just re-
ferred to. This description was founded upon a drawing
of a black bass, and accompanying manuscript notes, sent
to him by M. Bosc, from the vicinity of Charleston, South
Carolina, with the local name of "trout," or "trout-
perch."* This figure, and its accompanying description,
were said to be so uncertain and inaccurate, that it had
been considered very doubtful which species of black bass
was intended to be represented. However, Lacepede named
it Lahriis salmoides {Labre salmoide) — the "trout-like"
Lahrus, in accordance with its general appearance and
vernacular name. The European genus Lahrus embraces a
groat many species, and some American fishes were re-
ferred to it by European, as well as by our early American,
naturalists. ^

It had also been held by American ichthyologists that
it was after this, in 1801, that Lacepede received his first
example of a -black bass. This was a fine adult specimen

* Some forty years before M. Bosc sent the drawing of the Caro-
lina " trout " to LaeepMe, two specimens of the same fish had
been sent to Linnaeus by Dr. Garden, of Charleston, S, C. These
specimens were pressed skins of one-half of the fish, retaining the
vertical fins, and mounted in the same manner as botanical speci-
mens. Linnaeus failed to describe or name them, but they are still
preserved in the rooms of the Linnaean Society in the Burlington
House, London, England, in connection with the Linnaean her-
barium and library. One of the examples is labeled thus by Dr.
Garden : '* No. 40. Labrus. Nostralih. Fresh-water Trout."

History of the Black Bass. 5

of the small-mouth species, but, unfortunately, it was an
abnormal specimen, with a deformed dorsal fin, several of
the last rays having been apparently bitten off and torn
loose from the others when the fish was young, presenting
the appearance of a separate small fin. In conformity
with this accidental peculiarity, Lacepede named it
Micrvpterus dolomieu — Dolomieu's " small-fin " — sup-
posing that the little fin was a permanent and distinctive
feature, and of generic value; he accordingly created the
new genus ]\Iicro])terus, and named the type in honor of
his friend Dolomieu, a well-known French mineralogist,
for whom the mineral dolomite was also named.*

In 1817, C. S. Kafinesque, another French naturalist,
then living in America, procured specimens, apparently of
the small-mouth bass, in the region of Lake Champlain,
which he named Bodiaiius achigan, from the Canadian
vulgar name of Vacliigan. He either failed to recognize,
or repudiated, Lacepede's former descriptions of Labrus
salmoides and Micropterus dolomieu. During the next few
years, from 1818 to 1820, while collecting in the Ohio
River and its tributaries, in Kentucky, Eafinesque took and
described specimens of the small-mouth black bass, at dif-
ferent stages of its growth, as Calliurus punctulatiis , Lepo-
mis trifasciata, Lepomis flexuolaris, Lepomis salmonea,
Lepomis notata, and Etheostoma calliura, and specimens of
the large-mouth bass he described as Lepomis pallida.

In 1822, Charles A. Le Sueur, also a French naturalist,
while in this country described and named specimens, of

* In 1887 I personally examined this specimen in the Museum
of Natural History in the Jardin des Plantes at Paris. It is a fine
example, about a foot in length, and is in a remarkably good state
of preservation. It is undoubtedly a small-mouth black bass.

6 Book of the Black Bass.

various ages, of the small-mouth black bass, as €iclila
variabilis, (this name was never published by Le Sueur,
but specimens sent by him and thus labeled, are still pre-
served in the Museum D'Histoire Naturelle at Paris,)
Ciclila fasciaia, Cichla oliiensis and Cichla minima, and
the large-mouth bass frdm Florida as Cichla fioridana, thus
dissenting from, or entirely ignoring, Eafinesque.

In 1828, the great Cuvier and his coadjutor, Valenci-
ennes, received from Lake Huron a specimen of the large-
mouth black bass, and which, as in the case of the first
small-mouth bass sent to France, was, curiously enough,
an abnormal or mutilated specimen, having likewise a de-
formed dorsal fin. In this instance, the last two rays of the
spinous dorsal fin were torn off, thus leaving, apparently,
two separate and distinct dorsal fins, the first composed of
six spines, and the second of two spines and twelve or thir-
teen soft rays. This specimen was sent to them under the
local name of " Idack bass," or " black perch ;" and not
suspecting the mutilation of the specimen, they named it
Huro nigricans — the " l)lack huron."

In the following year, 1829, Cuvier and Valenciennes
obtained two specimens, through M. Milbert, of the large-
mouth bass, from New York, under the name of " growler,"
and four specimens of the small-mouth bass, through Le
Sueur, from the Wabash Kiver, in Indiana, all of which
they identified with Lacepede's Lahrus salmoides, and Le
Sueur's Cichla variabilis, and which they named Grysles
salmoides. Subsequently Cuvier and Valenciennes an-
nounced that Lacepede's Micropterus dolomieu was also
identical with their Grysles salmoides*

* These specimens I liave also personally examined. The two
examples sent to the museum at Paris by Milbert, and from one of








The complex species, Grystes salmoides, thus created by
Cuvier, was the origin and beginning of most of the subse-
quent confusion that attended the nomenclature of the
black bass species in America, inasmuch as he embraced
both the large-mouth and small-mouth basses in this name.

In 1842, Dr. James E. DeKay, in his " Fishes of New
York," after reproducing Cuvier and Valenciennes', figures
and descriptions of Huro nigricans and Grystes salmoides,
described specimens of the small-mouth black bass under
two additional names: Centrarchiis fasciatus and Cen-
trarchus obscurus, claiming the latter as a new species.

In the same year. Dr. Jared P. Kirtland adopted Cen-
trarchus fasciatus as synonymous with Le Sueur's and
Rafinesque's numerous descriptions of the small-mouth

in 1849, Dr. John E. Holbrook recorded the large-moulh
bass as Grystes sahnoides (name only) in a catalogue of
fauna and flora in the '^ Statistics of Georgia." It will be
noticed that Dr. Holbrook thus considered Grystes sal-
moides to be the proper name of the large-mouth black bass,
or " trout," of Georgia.

In 1850, Prof. Louis Agassiz recognized the generic
identity of the former descriptions of the black bass by
Le Sueur, Cuvier and Valenciennes, and DeKay, and re-
tained the name Grystes for the same.

In 1854, Prof. Agassiz obtained specimens of the large-
mouth bass from the Tennessee River, near Huntsville,

■w^hich the figure in Cuvier and Valenciennes' " Histoire Naturelle
des Poissons " was taken, are both large-mouth black bass, one
being fully eight, and the other about six inches in length. The
four specimens from the Wabash River sent to the museum by
Le Sueur are all small-mouth bass, the largest being at least
fifteen inches in length, and the others about one-third as long.

10 Book of tup: Black Bass.

Ala., which lie named, provisionally, Grystes nohilis. In
the same year, Messrs. Baird and Girard described speci-
mens of the same species from Texas, as Grystes nuccensis.

In 1855, in his " Ichthyology of South Carolina," Dr.
Ilolbrook gave an excellent figure and the first full and
elaborate description of the Carolina " trout," under the
name of Grystes salmoides Lacepede.

In 1857, Dr. Theodatus Garlick, one of the fathers of
fish culture in America, described the small-mouth black
bass as Grystes nigricans, and the large-mouth species as
Grystes megastoma.

In 1858, Dr. Charles Girard described the large-mouth
bass as Dioplites nuecensis.

In 1860, Dr. Theo. Gill restored Eafinesque's earliest
name for the small-mouth form of the black bass, calling
it Lepomis achigan, which, however, he changed in 1866
to Micropterus achigan, and still later, in 1873, he adopted
Lacepede's name, Micropterus salmoides, for the same

In 1865, Dr. Edw. D. Cope named the large-mouth bass,
Micropterus nigricans, which name was also adopted by
Prof. Gill in 1866.

In 1871, when, apparently, the oldest generic and specific
names, Micropterus salmoides for the small-mouth hass,
and j\Hcropicrus nigricans for the large-mouth bass, had
been restored, as in Prof. Gill's masterly review* of the
species in the previous year (when the tangled web had
been, seemingly, straightened), when dry land was thought
to have been reached at last ; — then came the French natu-

* On the species of the genus Micropterus ( Lac. ) or Grystes
(Auct.). By Theodore Gill, of Washington, D, C. Proceedings of
llic American Association for the Advancement of Science, xxii,
1873, pp. B. 55-72.

History of the Black Bass. 11

ralists, again. MM. Yaillant and Bocoiirt, of Paris^ in-
stead of profiting by the experience of their predecessors in
this matter, tried to show that we had four species of black
bass, where but two really existed, and this in spite of the
fact that the Gallic misnomer of the type species still
existed as a terrible warning to them, of the folly of in-
dulging their national love of novelty where so grave a
matter as science was concerned. They proposed the title
Dioplites variabilis for the small-mouth form, and Dio-
plites trcculii, Dioplites nuecensis and Dioplites salmoides,
for the large-mouth form, under several unimportant
varietal, or individual, differences.

In 1876, Dr. G. Brown Goode restored Le Sueur's name,
and called the large-mouth black bass Micro pterus

In 1877, Dr. David S. Jordan restored the still older
name of Rafinesque for this species, and with the full
concurrence of Dr. Theo. Gill, designated it Micropterus

In 1878, Dr. Jordan divided the small-mouth species
into two geographical varieties, distinguishing the I^orth-
ern form as j\[. salmoides var. acliigan, and the Southern
form as Jf. salmoides var, salmoideSo

Finally, MM. A^aillant and Bocourt (Miss. Sci. au
Mexique : ined.) adopted the generic title Micropterus, but
recognized four provisional species : M. dolomieu and M.
variabilis for the small-mouth form and M. salmoides and
M. nuecensis for the large-mouth form, under certain, evi-
dently, unimportant variations.

Thus, it will be seen that, from the first, the nomen-
clature of the black bass species had been involved in great
doubt, uncertainty, and confusion ; and while much of the
complexity had been, apparentl3% dissipated, there still

12 Book of the Black Bass.

existed among ichthyologists some difference of opinion as
to the proper differentiation of the species. Even the gen-
erally accepted nomenclature, prior to 1881, unfortunately
and unavoidably established, as it was, on an insecure
basis, was liable at any time to fall to the ground while the
said differences among the authorities existed.

Now, if we could have felt perfectly confident and rea-
sonably sure that the premises adopted by our American
naturalists were correct, to wit: that Lahrus salmoides
Lacepede was the first scientific description of the small-
mouth bass, we could then have left the subject here, with
the firm conviction that the matter was settled for all time,
and could thus have felt assured of the ultimate and uni-
versal adoption and perpetuity of the American nomen-
clature of the black bass, viz: Micropterus salmoides (La-
cepede) Gill, for the small-mouth species, and Micropterus
pallidus (Eafinesque) Gill & Jordan, for the large-mouth
species. In that event, I say, we could have rested con-
tent ; for, althougli the generic appellation, and the specific
title of the small-mouth black bass, as proposed, were mis-
nomers, they were the only names that could rightly be
bestowed, under the circumstances, and we could well af-
ford to submit gracefully to what could not be bettered, or

It will be observed, however, that Dr. Vaillant proposed
the title Micropterus salmoides for the large-mouth bass;
and as we called the small-mouth bass by the same name, it
would have produced endless confusion were that state of
things to continue. If the black bass of Europe were al-
ways to be confined to a few preserved specimens and
plaster casts in the museums, it would not have mattered
so much ; but as this desirable game-fish had been already
introduced into European waters, it would seem to be a

History of the Black Bass. 13

matter of some interest to obtain a correct, uniform, and
universal nomenclature of the species. Even as late as
1880 Dr. Giinther, the great English authority, in his
^' Introduction to the Study of Fishes/' nailed Grystes and
Huro to the mast-head as valid genera.

It will be noticed that Dr. Vaillant adopted the north-
em and southern varieties of the small-mouth bass as
provisional species, and likewise separated the large-mouth
bass into two species, one being distinguished by teeth on
the tongue, the other by their absence. I have often noticed
this peculiarity of the presence or absence of lingual teeth
in the large-mouth species in fish from various waters,
and am not sure but I have observed it in the small-
mouth species occasionally, but I have always considered
it as developed, possibly, by the character of the food in
certain localities, or merely a phase of individual variation.

In 1878, Dr. Jordan, while in Europe, gave great at-
tention to the investigation of the black bass from the Paris
standpoint. He examined, with the greatest care, Lace-
pede's original type specimen, and the specimens of Cuvier
and Valenciennes. He was determined to get to the bottom
of the matter, if possible, and to this end consulted freely,
and compared notes, with the French ichthyologists, who
aided him in every possible way. He afterward published
the result of his researches, which forms one of the most
interesting papers pertaining to the literature of the black

Dr. Jordan submitted the evidence resulting from his
investigation to Dr. Gill, who, owing to his faith in Cuvier,

* Notes on Certain Typical Specimens of American Fishes in the
British Museum and in the Museum D'Histoire Naturelle at Paris.
By David S. Jordan, M.D. < Proceedings of United States
National Museum, ii, 1S79, pp. 218-22G.

14 Book of the Black Bass.

and to a misleading reprint of Lacepede's Natural History
of Fishes, concluded that we could still retain our nomen-
clature of the black bass species, viz : Micropterus salmoides
for the small-mouth, and Micropterus pallidus for the large-
mouth, for reasons that it is not necessary to repeat here.
This view was acquiesced in by Dr. Jordan, though he
admitted in the paper referred to that " the specific name
dolomieu was the first ever distinctly applied to our small-
mouth black bass," and that in the figure of Bosc's Lahrus
salmoides "the mouth is drawn large, and if we must
choose, the large-mouth is best represented;" also that in
the museum at Paris the name salmoides was fully adopted
for that species.

I Avas convinced that the estimate of the black bass
species as entertained by Dr. Vaillant was correct, and that
dolomieu for the small-mouth, and salmoides for the large-
mouth black bass, were more in accordance with the evi-
dence set forth in Dr. Jordan's paper, than our accepted
nomenclature, based as it was upon the conflicting testi-
mony of Cuvier and Valenciennes, who embraced every
thing known of the black bass, in their day, in their Grystes
salmoides, except Huro nigricans, and had it not been for
the gap in its dorsal fin, the inference is, they would have
included that also. I do not make this statement unguard-
edly, or disrespectfully, for while I venerate the name of
Cuvier, I am convinced that he failed to discriminate be-
tween the two species of black bass.

But let us begin at the beginning.

Now, if we discard both the description and figure of
Cuvier and Valenciennes' Grystes salmoides, we have left
(ignoring for the time both Eafinesque and Le Sueur)
only Lacepede's Lahrus salmoides and Micropterus

History of the Black Bass. 15

Let us take Lacepede's figure and description of Labrus
salmoides, just as they are, on their own merits, without
any reference to Cuvier's valuation of them ; and to render
the matter plain, I have reproduced, at the close of this
chapter, facsimile representations of Lacepede's plates of
both Labrus salmoides and Micropterus dolomieu, with his
descriptions, from the original edition of his " Histoire
Naturelle des Poissons."

In the first place, as Dr. Jordan truly says of the figure
of Labrus salmoides: "if we must choose, the large-mouth
is best represented/^ This is certainly correct, for no one
could mistake this figure for a small-mouth black bass.
Then, Lacepede's description says the opening of the mouth
is very large (" I'ouverture de la bouche fort large ") . The
radial formula of the dorsal fin is given as nine spinous
rays and thirteen soft rays ("neuf rayons aiguillones et
treize rayons articules a la nageoire du dos "). This num-
ber of dorsal spines will hold good in seventy-five per cent,
of cases, in the large-mouth bass of the south; sometimes
there will be found but eight. The rest of the description
will apply to either species. Then, again, Lacepede, on the
authority of M. Bosc, says the species is ve^-y abundant in
the rivers of Carolina, where they are called " trout," and
are caught with the hook baited with a minnow (" On
trouve un tres-grande nombre d'indivdus de cette espece
dans toutes les rivieres de la Caroline; on leur donne le
nom de traut ou truite. On les prend a Thamecon; on les
attire par le moyen de morceaux de cyprin'').

Kow, if we had not been trying to reconcile Labrus
salmoides with the small-mouth bass, contrary to the evi-
dence of our own senses, so as to accord with Cuvier's

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