The Roanoke Bass (Ambloplites cavifrons) is a member of the sunfish family and is very similar in shape and contrast to the Rock Bass. Most that are members of the sunfish family are stalky with a strong tail that allows them to rapidly accelerate from stop to strike at their prey. Their shape also allows them to turn rapidly in pursuit of their prey.
Above: Scientific Classification
The Roanoke bass can be identified by its unscaled or partly scaled cheek and the several iridescent gold to white spots on its upper side and head. It is olive to tan above, has a dark and light marbling on the side and often has a row of spots and a white to bronze breast and belly.
Above: Roanoke River
The Roanoke Bass has the smallest native range of all North American game fish. It is localised due to extirpation from many areas because of impoundment, pollution and siltation. This restricted distribution places the redeye bass on the threatened list. And, while it is still considered a good fish to eat, the population would be best survived by practising catch and release.
As the Roanoke Bass are endangered due to polluted waters and over fishing. At BassFishing-gurus.com, we are strong believers of fish conservation. In order to preserve this fish, throw back more Roanoke Bass rather than keep them. A catch and release program can help save this threatened species.
However, due to their limited range and small size, redeye bass are not known to many American anglers and there is little to no sport market for the fish.
Does Size Matter?
We can't help but wonder if this bass was bigger, it would not be threatened. All the big species of bass, the smallmouth bass, the largemouth bass and the peacock bass, have been introduced all around the world due to their fight and size. This has all been done in most cases without regard to the native populations.
The Roanoke Bass does not get bigger than a lake perch. In fact, we have caught lake perch in Canada, where it is cold most of the time, that exceed the record roanoke bass ever caught.
Above: Lake Perch
There are many risks to this species. Continued construction or an environmental disaster could push the roanoke bass to extinction. The only true way to ensure it survival is to expand its distribution.
Is it a Rock Bass?
The Roanoke Bass if often mistaken for the Rock Bass, though they are members of the same fmaily, they are different species.
Above: Roanoke Bass; below, Rock Bass
The Roanoke Bass has a compressed, stocky body with a large, terminal mouth, dark-edged anal fin and almost no cheek scales. It has a rounded pectoral fin, heart-shaped tail fin, large, red eye and a dark brown or olive body.
The Roanoke Bass is characteristic of most members of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae), having the same all around shape and form, with the exception of the smallmouth bass and the largemouth bass, whihc are more elongated. But those fish aside, the one thing all sunfish have in common is that they are very well designed for ambushing their prey, lunging at them from a standing position to the attack point and able to turn rapidly much like a sports car can around a turn.
The Rock Bass
The Roanoke Bass resembles the rock bass and many people make the mistake of confusing the two despite having a different colouring. The Ranoke Bass has a dark, olivegreen to olivebrown back, fading to grayish sides and white belly. It has a smaller set of scale spots than the rock bass and lighter small whitish or yellowish spots on its upper body. The Roanoke Bass has a slightly concave outline over the eyes. Checks scaleless or nearly so.
Above: Roanoke Bass; below, Rock Bass
The Roanoke Bass is one of the most rare bass in North America along with the redeye bass. Due to it's size, few anglers chase after it and there is no one is interested to transplanting the fish to other waterways. With reduced populations, the Roanoke bass is threatened.
The record Roanoke bass caught was one pound, five ounces and a total length of 14.5 inches (37 cm) long. Even the rock bass grows larger than the Roanoke bass. A member of the sunfish family, the Roanoke is a tiny fish sought after by children and the odd cat.
The Roanoke Bass will chase down pretty much anything that lives on or lands on the surface of a river. They will eat insects, worms, leeches, crayfish, fathead minnows, golden shinners and gizzard shad.
Above: standard North American bait shop leech.