Rock Bass

Illustration by Duane Raver
(Enlarge image)

Scientific Name: Ambloplites rupestris

Classification: Game Fish

Abundance: Common in many of the coolwater rivers in western NC.


Rock bass state record (1 lb., 14 oz., Deep River, Carbonton by Robert W. Lytton; 4/29/1998

Additional Information

A member of the sunfish family, the rock bass has a short, robust body with an olive-green top and gold or brassy-colored sides. The scales along its sides have a dark spot, often forming a striped-like appearance. The anal fin has five to seven hard spines, and on adult rock bass, this fin has a dark outline. There is a dark spot on the ear flap, and the cheeks are scaled. The Roanoke bass, found with rock bass in some rivers of the northern Piedmont, is similar in appearance but does not have cheek scales or a dark margin on the anal fin. The warmouth is also similar in appearance to a rock bass but has only three hard anal spines.

Rock bass are native to the Mississippi River drainage and northern Atlantic drainages, such as the Connecticut and the Delaware rivers. In North Carolina, rock bass are native to rivers in the western part of the state that flow to the Mississippi, and they have been stocked into numerous rivers draining to the Atlantic Ocean. Rock bass are usually found near sheltered pool areas around rocks and woody debris in rivers in the mountains and foothills. They are occasionally found in lakes. Rock bass eat primarily aquatic insects, crayfish and small fish.

The rock bass is classified as an inland game fish.

The following fishing regulations are effective Aug. 1 of each year.

Inland Fishing Regulations
Regulatory authority between the Wildlife Resources Commission and Division of Marine Fisheries. Inland game fish regulations include Manner of Taking, Seasons and Using Trotlines and Set-hooks.

Warmwater Game Fish
Game fish size and creel limits. Also, Bass and Morone (striped bass) Identification Charts.

Fishing Tips:

Rock bass are often hooked by anglers fishing for smallmouth bass. They usually bite readily and will take almost any lure they can fit in their mouths. Good artificial baits include spinners, small plastic worms, jigs, small crankbaits and flies. Productive live baits include minnows, crayfish and worms.

 Places to Fish:

The coolwater rivers in the western part of the state, such as the New, Nolichucky and Little Tennessee rivers, are great places to fish for rock bass. Rock bass are also common in many smaller foothills streams, such as the Mitchell River and Reddies River.

None at this time