The changing face of the St. Lawrence bass fishery

As we're driving west, clouds are moving in from the southwest. Maybe that weatherman really did know what he was talking about.

 

As he drives, Silver explains why smallmouth bass dominate tournaments on the St. Lawrence River. Back in the Bassmaster Invitational days, it usually took largemouths to win here. A 17 to 18 pound sack was a good day's work. It is still possible to catch that kind of weight with largemouths, but it is harder than it once was.

 

The reason, Silver explains, is that low water and zebra mussels have negatively impacted the shallow spawning areas and the aquatic vegetation in which the bass used to thrive.

 

Then there is the goby, an invasive species that has infested these waters. Studies have shown that the goby comprises 99 percent of the smallmouth's diet here. The brown bass have grown fat on them.

 

"Before we had gobies here, a 4-pound smallmouth was a big one," Silver says. "Now a 6-pound smallmouth is the equivalent of what a 4-pounder used to be."