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Smallmouth bass illustration

Smallmouth Bass

North Dakota Game Species

Sunfish Family: Sunfish family members are deep and stockily built, attractive in coloration and popular as panfish. Most sunfish spawn in early summer, when water temperatures warm to the mid-60 and low 70-degree range. Male sunfish build nests by excavating soft substrate with their fins to expose sand, gravel, roots or other firm objects for females to lay their eggs over.

Smallmouth Bass Identification

  • Dorsal fin has a spiny front portion and a soft-rayed rear portion
  • Dorsal fin is almost separated into two parts
  • Similar in color to the largemouth, except for barred markings on its sides
  • Mouth is smaller and the rear of the upper jaw does not extend beyond the center of the eye


Smallmouth bass prefer rocky habitat and are common in many of North Dakota’s larger reservoirs.

They are an underutilized resource in North Dakota and provide an excellent fight on hook and line.

Smallmouth bass eat a variety of fish, insects and invertebrates. They are particularly fond of crayfish.