Rock Bass

A. rupestris

Last updated: February 20, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© USFWS Mountain-Prairie | Public Domain Mark 1.0 – License / Original

Rock bass can change their color slightly to camouflage.


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Rock Bass Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Perciformes
Family
Centrarchidae
Genus
Ambloplites
Scientific Name
A. rupestris

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Rock Bass Locations

Rock Bass Locations

Rock Bass Facts

Prey
Crustaceans, small fish, amphibians, insects, and zooplankton
Main Prey
Smaller fish
Name Of Young
Fry
Group Behavior
  • School
Fun Fact
Rock bass can change their color slightly to camouflage.
Most Distinctive Feature
Black dots on their gill plates
Distinctive Feature
Black dots on their bodies
Other Name(s)
Black or rock perch
Average Spawn Size
2,000 to 11,000 eggs
Habitat
Freshwater with rocky bottoms and vegetation
Predators
Walleye, muskies, larger bass, northern pike
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Sunfish
Common Name
Rock bass
Origin
North America
Number Of Species
1

Rock Bass Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • Silver
  • Light Grey
  • Dark Grey
Skin Type
Scales
Age of Sexual Maturity
2 to 3 years

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Rock Bass Summary

The rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) also known as the black or rock perch, is a type of freshwater fish that belongs to the sunfish family. It’s a medium-sized fish native to the lakes and ponds in North America, popular with anglers for fishing purposes.

They are generally smaller than smallmouth bass and have a distinctive appearance, making them distinguishable amongst other popular angler fish.

3 Facts About Rock Bass

  1. They can change their color slightly to blend into their environment better.
  2. These fish have characteristically large mouths.
  3. Their eyes are dark red.

Classification and Scientific Name

Rock bass belongs to the Centrarchidae family in the Ambloplites genus. The binomial or scientific name for rock bass is Ambloplites rupestris.

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Appearance

Rock bass
Rock bass have a characteristically large mouth set underneath their eyes.

©iStock.com/Lightwriter1949

Rock bass is easy to identify when you know what to look for. These fish have a characteristically large mouth set underneath their eyes, which are a deep red coloration. These fish are not very large compared to other types of bass, only growing around 6-10 inches in length. They can weigh up to 3 pounds, but one pound is common in smaller specimens.

Their color is quite interesting, and these fish have predominantly yellowish-brown bodies with silver and black. Shades of black are seen throughout the tips of their anal fins, and black dotted striped line their body horizontally. A black dot is located near the fish’s gill plates. The dorsal fin is spiny and lacks a uniform shape.



Even though rock bass is part of the sunfish family, they do not have a flat body. Their body has a less compressed body that looks similar to a bluegill and largemouth bass. It is not uncommon for this fish to be misidentified as warmouth (Lepomis gulosus), but instead of having three spines on their anal fin, rock bass has around six instead.

This fish relies on their body coloration for camouflage purposes, which enables them to change its color to black or silver to match its environment. This can make it difficult to identify them if they are changing their color.

This type of camouflage helps to protect them from predators, but it can also change with age and stress.

Distribution, Population, and Habitat

Distribution

Rock bass is native to east-central North America, but they have been introduced into Atlantic river drainages. They are distributed throughout southeastern Canada from Ontario to Quebec, toward the Mississippi River Basin, and all the way to Missouri and Arkansas. This fish is plentiful in most parts of the Dakota river in the U.S. and the Great Lakes region along with Torch and Champlain lake.

They have also entered the Savannah River basin and eastern parts of the U.S., such as New York, Tennessee, and Kentucky. You can also find rock bass in the southern parts of Florida, Alabama, and parts of Georgia in the Chattahoochee River basin.

Population

The population of rock bass is considered the “least concern” on the IUCN red list. They are not considered an invasive species. Fishing for rock bass as a sport is managed by some rules and regulations, and artificial water systems are used to manage and maintain populations of rock bass.

Habitat

This is a freshwater fish that inhabit various bodies of water. This includes lakes, river systems, reservoirs, shore banks, ponds, weed beds, streams, and spring holes. These fish prefer cooler waters with plenty of rocks, hence their name “rock bass.”

The water should ideally be rich in vegetation and covered with a rocky bottom. The water should ideally have low turbidity, so rocks, wooden branches, and vegetation should be plentiful as hiding places.

The bottom of the water system should be filled with rocks or sand. These fish do not typically inhabit waters with silt. Their ideal current is slow-moving, and they avoid river areas with fast-moving currents.

Predators and Prey

The main predators of young rock bass include northern pike, larger bass species, muskies, and walleye. Adult rock bass is generally more protected when they have a larger size.

They are carnivorous fish that prey on smaller fish. In some cases, they may eat their own fry if there is insufficient vegetation and rocks to keep the fry safe. The main times that adults can be seen preying on food items are during the early mornings and evenings, and they are diurnal.

They will eat a variety of smaller fish, including minnows, amphibians, zooplankton, and yellow merch, along with small crustaceans and insects and their larvae. They will also readily eat a variety of baitfish from the surface.

Reproduction and Lifespan

The average lifespan for rock bass is between 8-10 years in the wild. Certain specimens can live longer, but it is uncommon for rock bass to live for more than 12 years.

They can reproduce once sexually mature at 2-3 years old. They are polyandrous, which means that they mate with multiple fish during the spawning season. Females can lay more than 5,000 eggs during a single spawn, which occurs around April till the beginning of June in warmer water.

Spawning occurs around rock bass nests, typically created close to each other. Males are responsible for building the nest, and they can become quite territorial during this time in efforts to protect the nest. Once spawning has occurred, the male will fan the eggs and protect the fry shortly after hatching.

Not all fry enter adulthood, as rock bass sometimes eat their young or are eaten by predators.

Rock Bass in Fishing and Cooking

Rock bass is considered to be game fish, and they are popular for fishing. This fish enjoys a variety of bait such as wax worms, nightcrawlers, minnows, and other types of baitfish. The best way to catch one is to use artificial lures or live bait. A micro fishing rod and a fishing reel with a smooth drag are a good choice for catching them.

These fish do not spend much time in the middle of the lake and prefer to school around the bank or shoreline of the water in vegetation and structures where they feel secure.

They can be used in cooking, and they are edible. These fish can be pan-fried or baked, but ensuring the internal temperature is right before consumption is important. The flesh of the bass is described as flaky and white.

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About the Author

I am an animal lover that not only enjoys owning and getting to care for them, but also writing about them! I currently own fish, a crested gecko, an adorable hamster, fancy rats, and a docile tarantula. Writing has become my passion and I enjoy writing about the animals I love so dearly so that I can share my knowledge and expertise in my work.

Rock Bass FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are rock bass found?

Rock bass is found throughout North America, in various freshwater systems. You can locate rock bass in the U.S. in Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Lake, the Hudson Bay, the Savannah River, and the Dakota River. These fish can also be found in the Atlantic River drainages where they have been introduced.

Common places for rock bass to be found include:

  • Georgia
  • Northern Alabama
  • North Carolina
  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
  • California
  • England
  • France
  • Missouri

What do rock bass eat?

Rock bass are carnivores and prey on a combination of smaller fish, crustaceans, insects, and small amphibians. Young rock bass will feed on zooplankton and insect larvae.

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