Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) scientists have discovered a new species of black bass. The fish was first noticed in 2007 during a routine survey in the Chipola River, which is located in North West Florida near the Alabama/Georgia border. (The river is about 92 miles long.)
When Florida scientists were doing their field work, they weren’t looking for a new species. One fish they caught and tried to identify did not match their typical DNA profiles so they investigated. They were able to determine it was a unique species and that there were more of the same fish in adjacent rivers, including the Choctawhatchee. The range for this Choctaw bass is rivers in Alabama and the Western panhandle of Florida. The name was chosen to reference the Choctaw tribe of indigenous people, because they lived in about the same areas as the bass species. It is a type of black bass similar to another Florida fish – the spotted bass.
Micropterus haiaka is the scientific name recommended by the scientists. It still needs to be approved by the American Fisheries Society to become finalized.
The Chipola River is a popular place for fishing, kayaking inner tubing and cave diving. The Choctawhatchee is over 140 miles long and is also popular with water enthusiasts. It is a clean river, having never been particularly exploited by industry, which is great for local species and nature enthusiasts. Spotted bass are caught frequently by anglers in Florida. The official size record is 3.75 pounds.
Often when new species are discovered they are already in danger of extinction due to habitat loss. In this case, the Choctaw Bass seems to be in good condition ecologically.