An Introduction to Australian Bass
The Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) is a member of the Percichthyidae family and not at all similar to the North American Smallmouth or Largemouth.
As it’s name implies, the Australian Bass is native to Australia and can be found in the rivers and streams with access to the ocean.
Other named bass such as the Largemouth are members of the Centrarchidae family. These are actually members of the sunfish family and not related to the Australian Bass.
The Similarity to Estuary Perch
Results from recent research which used DNA analysis, provided solid evidence that the Australian Bass and estuary perch do actually belong in a separate genus to the golden perch and the Macquarie perch.
The research provided some other interesting facts about the Australian Bass. While currently a member of the Macquaria genus, it’s genetically much closer to the cod species (Maccullochella).
So are we ready to reclassify this fish again? Well we think so and there’s a good chance that they may be both put back into the Percalates genus. While uncommon, reclassification has occurred before and most likely will happen again with enough supporting evidence.
There’s some disagreement over the classification of some Peacock Bass which are also not true bass as they are of the Cichla genus. As with the Australian Bass, the Peacock bass are known for their fighting abilities and the name has stuck.
Australian Bass are very popular among Australian anglers as it has many of the same traits that other bass have despite being moderate in size. Their fighting abilities make landing a 4 to 6 pound fish exciting and challenging.
However for many their fighting abilities are not the only reason to seek out the Australian Bass. They’re well known for their flavor both in the home and on fishing expeditions.
As the scientific name indicates, the Australian Bass and estuary perch are the Macquaria genus, but this was not always the case. Prior to the 1970’s, the Australian Bass and estuary perch were placed in a separate genus, Percalates.
The Australian Bass eats fishes, crustaceans and other invertebrates such as insects and can also be caught with worms, both live and plastic. And in most cases, plastic worms offer more advantages over live bait as they don’t expire, don’t have to be kept at a particular temperature, can be reused and come in a large variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
While many claim that the Australian Bass can reach close to 9 lbs, the reality is that anglers are more likely to land a 2 lb fish, or even a 1 lb fish rather than an 8 lb.
The largest Australian bass on record is recorded at 3.78 kg (about 8.33 lbs).
As we’ve said, many fish labelled as bass are actually not true bass. Other than the Peacock Bass most of these fish are very similar in appearance and proportions, offer similar fighting traits and often chase after the same bait types.
How To Recognise
The Australian Bass is dark olive-green or greyish on the back and sides with darker scale margins. The belly is silvery or whitish, and the fins are mostly dusky brown to black. The tips of the anal and pelvic fins are white.
Juvenile fish (or fingerlings) under 12cm long are banded and have a dark blotch on the gill cover.
The average length of the Australian Bass is just under 14 inches with the large lunkers reaching 24 inches in length. But again, most Australian Bass caught today are much closer to the 15 inch size.
The Australian Bass has an evenly arched dorsal profile, a snout that is straight or slightly concave and a forked caudal fin.
It has a protruding lower jaw with a moderately large eye and a notch between the spiny first dorsal fin and the soft-rayed second dorsal fin.
Coastal rivers, lakes and estuaries of eastern Australia from Fraser Island in the state of Queensland all the way to the Wilson’s Promontory in the state of Victoria. You’ll find more distribution detail on this link.
While other bass have been transplanted to other regions of the world, we weren’t able to find any research or news that the Australian Bass has been found anywhere other than where we’ve listed, with the exception of a few reservoirs in the state of Queensland.
If you come across the Australian Bass in other Australian states or other countries, please let us know and send in details with a picture and location. GPS co-ordinates are greatly appreciated.
Getting back to Australia, the Australian Bass can migrate considerable distances upstream and has been historically recorded up to an altitude of 600 meters in the Hawkesbury River drainage, New South Wales. They can be caught with a wide range of tackle and lures, which you’ll find in specific posts.
In recent years, population sizes have declined as building of dams and weirs has made potential habitats inaccessible. Australia has also encountered a significant drought that has affected the water level and volume of many inland rivers and streams. River regulation is reported to interfere with spawning cues.
There are many sport fishing clubs located on the east coast of Australia that provide support, tips and comradery where you can share stories about the one that got away. We’d like to keep a record of all fishing clubs so if you come across one that is not listed, send it to us through out contact us page.