(WFXR) — There is a foreign invader prowling Virginia; one that threatens a multi-million dollar industry. It’s a voracious predator, aggressive, and it has the potential to overwhelm its environment.
So, what is this dangerous enemy?
The Alabama Bass.
Alabama bass, as the name might suggest, are natives of Alabama. You can also find them in parts of Georgia. In their environments there, they are just fine; part of the native ecosystem. But, outside of their range, they’re trouble.
The Alabama bass is a member of the black bass family. In fact, they look similar to the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass that call Virginia home.
They’re smaller, averaging eight to 10 inches in length, though they can grow larger, and often do when first introduced to a body of water. They are also prodigious, and spread rapidly in water where they are introduced. After that happens, their growth stunts with few fish reaching a pound in weight.
The issue is that in Virginia waters, they outcompete largemouth and smallmouth bass for needed resources. In addition, they can hybridize with native bass. Because largemouth and smallmouth are the top two sportfishing targets in Virginia, an influx of Alabama bass threatens Virginia’s multi-million dollar bass fishing industry. If the Alabama bass gains a foothold here, jobs could be at stake.
So far, they’ve been confirmed in only a few bodies of water in Virginia:
- Lake Gaston
- Claytor Lake
- Philpott Lake
- Martinsville Reservoir
- Diasucnd Reservoir
- Chickahominy River
How did they get here?
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) says it was probably the result of well-meaning fishermen thinking they were doing something good by introducing a new, fast-growing species. Adding non-native fish is never a good idea without the advice of the experts who manage our wildlife resources. In fact, it’s illegal to stock fish into any public body of water without authorization from the DWR.
Because of the threat they present, Alabama bass have been added to Virginia’s Predatory and Undesirable Species List. That means you can catch and keep as many as you want, regardless of size. It also means you can not keep them alive once you leave the body of water where you caught them. If you’re caught transporting live Alabama bass, you could face a class III misdemeanor.
If you think you’ve caught or seen an Alabama bass, let the Virginia DWR know about it. You can contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (804) 367-1293. The DWR also has a website dedicated to helping anglers identify the Alabama bass.