These are exciting times for fish nerds like myself. In March it was published in Lake Magazine that four new species of redeye bass have been discovered. I say “discovered”, but it’s more like “recognized”. They’ve always been there, people had always fished for them, but no one really knew they were genetically divergent from the Coosa strain redeye bass.
The same is true for the newly described Choctaw Bass. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced on May 7th that the spotted bass that inhabit the streams of the Florida panhandle are actually an entirely different species, though they are almost identical in appearance. They offer the name Choctaw Bass as they shared the same geographic footprint as the Native American Choctaw tribe. Example pic and map below courtesy of FWC:
What peaks my interest though in the Choctaw Bass (besides the fact that they are an entirely new species – that is fascinating in it’s own right) is their proposed range map:
FWC seems to suggest that the bass I catch in Florida parish streams that don’t drain into the Mississippi River are possibly Choctaw bass, rather than spotted bass. I’ve long suspected that the spotted bass I catch around here are somehow different than those that lived in the Tennessee River drainages in Northern Alabama, mainly because they look different with their orange eyes and their habitat is completely different, and given the amount of time they’ve been cut off from the Mississippi River, I imagine their genetics have to be somewhat divergent. So I think it IS possible that they are Choctaw bass, but I also think it’s possible they are their own species, and the reason they aren’t already described is because no one has funded the research. The difference would most likely be genetic, just like with the Choctaw bass, and I guess that is important as it would illustrate diversity. But if it looks just like a spotted bass, acts just like a spotted bass, tastes just like a spotted bass, is it not just a spotted bass?