Oconee River Shoal Bass Likely A Crossbreed

Trice Cannon's 4-lb. bass looks like a shoal bass, but biologists say it's likely a shoal bass/spotted bass hybrid.

Daryl Kirby | March 20, 2021

There’s some pretty good bass fishing on the Oconee River as it flows south below Lake Sinclair through Milledgeville. Leave it to some anglers on one of the nation’s storied college bass fishing teams to tap into that good fishing. Trice Cannon, of Dunwoody, is a freshman at Georgia College and a member of the college’s fishing team. On Sunday, March 8, Trice and a hometown friend, Will Forth, put in at the Greenway ramp and began fishing their way down the Oconee.

“I have been fishing all of my life, with bass fishing being my favorite,” Trice said. “Will and I have fished together since we were kids.

I was throwing the new Z-man Baby Goat soft plastic bait. This was my first time using this new bait, and it truly paid off. We caught around 15 decent-sized largemouth bass and a couple of hybrids (striped bass/white bass hybrids),” Trice said.

Trice also caught another fish, and this one was a trophy for this stretch of the Oconee River—a 4-lb. bass that looks like a shoal bass, a species that isn’t native to the Oconee River.

“I was very surprised with the catch, this fish is rare in the Oconee river, especially one of this size,” Trice said.

Trice Cannon with the 4-lb. bass he caught on the Oconee River near Milledgeville. It looks like a shoal bass, but biologists indicate it is likely a shoal bass/spotted bass hybrid.

Trice weighed the bass on digital scales, and after some pictures were taken he released the fish. Since shoal bass aren’t supposed to be in that stretch of the Oconee River, GON sent the pictures of Trice’s bass to DNR Fisheries biologists and asked about their sampling of fish in the Oconee River below Lake Sinclair. 

Steve Schleiger is a fisheries biologist and is Region Supervisor for WRD’s Fisheries Section, overseeing the work on the lakes and rivers of middle Georgia. 

“I visually identified this particular fish as an Alabama spotted bass/shoal bass hybrid,” Steve said. “We have previously seen angler-reported catches similar to these. Biologist Brandon Baker did some genetic sampling in the middle Oconee and found that the genetic crosses there range from Alabama spotted bass/shoal bass to even more mixed Alabama spotted bass/shoal bass/Altamaha bass to everything in between.

“We didn’t find any pure shoal bass or Alabama bass in the middle Oconee River,” Steve said. “However, we did find pure Altamaha bass, but that would be expected since they are endemic to the drainage. We surmise that shoal bass were originally angler introduced in small numbers but rapidly hybridized.

“The spotted bass are a little more murky, with the possibility that they came upstream from where the Ocmulgee River runs into the Altamaha and then moved around the horn and up into the Oconee River. We don’t see spotted bass in Lake Sinclair (sampling), but some anglers have reported them—we just have not documented them, so it is unlikely spotted bass came from Sinclair. More likely, spotted bass could be an angler introduction, as well. This is the result of fishermen illegally stocking fish and is one of the ways illegal stocking can negatively affect native fish populations, in this case the Altamaha bass.”

Even without a definitive ID, Trice’s bass is unique—and the fish is still swimming the flowing waters of the Oconee River near Milledgeville.   

Oconee River Record Fish

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