The smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) is a species of freshwater fish in the sunfish family (Centrarchidae) of order Perciformes. It is the type species of its genus. One of the black basses, it is a popular gamefish sought by anglers throughout the temperate zones of North America, and has been spread by stock to many cool-water rivers and lakes in the United States and Canada. The smallmouth bass is native to the upper and middle Mississippi River basin, the Saint Lawrence River–Great Lakes system, and up into the Hudson Bay basin. Its common names include Smallmouth, Bronzeback, Brown Bass, Brownie, Smallie, and Bronze Bass.
In the United States, smallmouth bass first moved outside their native range upon construction of the Erie Canal in 1825, extending the fish's range into central New York state. During the mid- to late 1800s, smallmouth were transplanted via the nation's rail system to lakes and rivers throughout the northern and western United States, as far as California. Shippers found that smallmouth bass were a hardy species that could be transported in buckets or barrels via the railroad, sometimes using the spigot from the railroad water tank to aerate the fingerlings. They were introduced east of the Appalachians just before the Civil War, and afterwards transplanted to the states of New England. With increased industrialization and development, many of the nation's eastern trout rivers were dammed, polluted, or allowed to silt up, raising water temperatures and killing off the native brook trout. Smallmouth bass were often introduced to northern rivers now too warm for native trout, and slowly became a popular gamefish with many anglers. Equally adaptable to large, cool-water impoundments and reservoirs, the smallmouth also spread far beyond its original native range. Later, smallmouth populations also began to decline after years of damage caused by overdevelopment and pollution, as well as a loss of river habitat caused by damming many formerly wild rivers in order to form lakes or reservoirs. In recent years, a renewed emphasis on preserving water quality and riparian habitat in the nation's rivers and lakes, together with stricter management practices, eventually benefited smallmouth populations and has caused a resurgence in their popularity with anglers.
Today, smallmouth bass are very popular game fish, frequently sought by anglers using conventional spinning and bait casting gear, as well as fly fishing tackle. In addition to wild populations, the smallmouth bass is stocked in cool rivers and lakes throughout Canada and the United States. In shallow streams it is a wary fish, though usually not to the extent of most trout. The smallmouth is highly regarded for its topwater fighting ability when hooked - old fishing journals referred to the smallmouth bass as "ounce for ounce and pound for pound the gamest fish that swims Smallmouth bass are taken for the table, with filets of white, firm flesh when cooked. Today, many fishermen practice catch-and-release fishing to improve fish populations.
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