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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Spring spawning runs of white bass in Ky. waters a favorite with anglers

Editor’s note: This is the tenth article in a series about Kentucky’s gamefish species.

The white bass (Morone chrysops) is found in rivers throughout the state, and fishable population are present in many of Kentucky’s major lakes.

For most of the year it is an open-water (pelagic) species in lakes, but in the spring the spawning urge makes schools of white bass congregate in rocky headwater tributaries, or in rivers below dams which halt their migrations.

Spawning begins as soon as water temperatures approach 50 to 55 degrees. They may make spawning runs accompanied by striped bass or hybrid striped bass where populations intermingle.

Size and Coloration

White Bass Graphic from KDFWR)

The deep-bodied silvery fish has a small head and terminal mouth.

There are two separate dorsal (back) fins; the first has nine spines. The belly is milk-white. The back is bluish-sliver with metallic reflections. Its sides have dusky, broken stripes, and its eyes have a yellow or gold tint.

Adults are typically 10 to 15 inches long, and weigh 1 to 2 pounds. An 18-inch white bass weighs about 5 pounds.

The white bass (Morone chrysops) is a true bass, a member of the Temperate Bass family, Moronidae.

Distribution in Kentucky

There are good to excellent white bass fisheries in Lake Barkley, Cave Run Lake, Fishtrap Lake, Green River Lake, Herrington Lake, Kentucky Lake, Nolin River Lake, Rough River Lake, and Taylorsville Lake.

White Bass (Photo from KDFWR)

White bass are also found in abundance in the Ohio River and lower Green River, in Daviess and McLean Counties, south and west of Owensboro, Kentucky.

Spring spawning runs, a favorite with anglers, occur in the Salt River, above Taylorsville Lake, the Dix River above Herrington Lake, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. In many areas, schools of white bass are in shallow water and anglers can wade, or cast from the banks.

Food Habits

They feed heavily on shad (threadfin and gizzard), silversides and other forage fish.

Fishing Tips

The white bass is a powerful swimmer that is great fun to catch on light spinning tackle.

The best fishing is in the spring when white bass congregate below dams and make spawning runs to headwater tributaries of lakes. Anglers cast white curly tail jigs, and Roostertail spinners.

During the summer, white bass school up and chase schools of shad on the surface in lakes. Plunker and fly combinations and slab spoons are cast into “jumps.”

Salt River white bass fishing (Photo from KDFWR)

White bass are also caught trolling crankbaits, with streamer flies, small spinners, spoons, or jigs trailing on a leader.

At night, white bass are caught over lights by still-fishing with live minnows.

Creel Limits

The statewide creel limit for white bass and hybrid striped bass is 15 per day, but no more than five fish in the daily creel limit may be more than 15 inches long.

Some waters have special regulations. Consult the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide for more informaton.

White bass are fun to catch and surprisingly good table fare if prepared properly.

The skin and the strip of dark meat should be removed from fillets before cooking. Bread the fillets in lightly peppered corn meal and fry them in vegetable oil in an iron skillet.

White bass are keepers, one of Kentucky’s top gamefish species, with year-round fishing opportunities.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

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