Great Lakes Smallmouth


Field Research — Researchers from Central Michigan Univrsity and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources studied movements of smallmouth bass in Lake Michigan's Beaver Island Archipelago. The study addressed the questions: Do smallmouths remain in close proximity (within a 5-mile radius) of where they were captured; do they return to the same areas they occupied in previous years; and were there any specific movement patterns? Sixteen smallmouth bass (15 to 19 inches long) were outfitted with acoustic transmitters to determine movement patterns during three periods (prespawn, spawn, and postspawn) in 2007 and 2008.


Most bass remained within the Beaver Island study site. Two fish moved more than 40 miles from the tagging site. During postspawn, a high percentage of tagged bass were found in the same location as the year before. General movement patterns (moving roughly half a mile per day) indicated smallmouth bass remain close to shore during prespawn and spawn, but move farther offshore during postspawn (females move farther offshore than males).

Smallmouth bass were typically located in about 5 feet of water during prespawn, 5.5 feet during spawning, and 13 feet during postspawn. Some bass were located near boulders, rockpiles, or drop-offs during postspawn, but there didn't appear to be any trends in habitat use as other fish were often found in areas lacking these characteristics.


This population is currently managed as a population separate from the rest of northern Lake Michigan. The findings from this study indicate that some smallmouths migrate from the Beaver Island Archipelago to other areas of Lake Michigan, thus identifying the potential need to revise views concerning the connectedness of northern Lake Michigan smallmouth bass populations.

*Kaemingk, M. A., T. L. Galarowicz, J. Clevenger, and D. F. Clapp. 2011. Movement of smallmouth bass within the Beaver Island Archipelago, northern Lake Michigan. Journal of Great Lakes Research 37:625-631.

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