Do Largemouth Bass Live in Brackish Water

A coastal river flowing into the sea will create an estuary. The place where fresh and saltwater mix together and this mixture is called brackish water. Some species of salt and freshwater fish can take advantage of this hasher type of environment to inhabit and even thrive. Do Largemouth Bass Live in Brackish Water?

Largemouth Bass is found in all waters from fresh to brackish (a mix of fresh & saltwater) water that is tidal slow-moving rivers creeks, or streams. Largemouth, Striper & Channel Catfish like other Brackish fish species have a higher tolerance level of salinity & adapt to it where others can’t.

The word Brackish comes from the Middle Dutch root “brak,” meaning “salted” or “salty” Certain human activities can produce brackish water, in particular, certain civil engineering projects such as cooling water for Power facilities, dikes, and the flooding of coastal marshland, because brackish water is hostile to the growth of most terrestrial plant species, without appropriate management it can be damaging to the environment.

What is the Salinity of Brackish Water?

When it comes to diversity, Fish can do some amazing things. One of those is to live and adapt in many different environments from the cold of the deep frigid North Atlantic to the shallows of the Caribbean where temperatures can be warm. Some fish can adapt to water that is so deep there’s no sunlight. But fish also live in waters of different salinity content, or amount of salt. Some fish, like catfish, largemouth bass, and bluegills, live in freshwater. This is water with a salinity of fewer than 0.5 parts per thousand (ppt), meaning there is less than 1 part salt per 1000 gallons. 

In Freshwater, there is little or no salt the ocean carries about 35 parts per thousand (ppt) which equates to about 3.5%  This means that for every 1 liter (1000 mL) of seawater there are 35 grams of salts (mostly, but not entirely, sodium chloride) dissolved in it. Anything in between that is not considered seawater which is 0.5% and considered ocean or seawater which is 3.5% is called Brackish water.

Fish that live in Saltwater or Freshwater get accustomed to living where they inhabit a constant level of salinity and that doesn’t change. The fish and wildlife that live in a Brackishwater environment live with the variable in salinity and have to be able to adapt. In coastal areas, there are creeks and rivers where fresh and saltwater mix with tides and currents throughout the day.

This changes salinity levels and the variables that fish and aquatic life here have to deal with every day. The kinds of fish that can adapt to this harsh condition make their home here. The advantage of fishing in Brackish water is that you have the advantage of catching salt or freshwater species.

Brackish fish species have a higher tolerance for varying levels of water salinity. Examples of brackish water fish include species such as snook, tarpon, red drum, sheepshead, largemouth bass, channel catfish, peacock bass, and striped bass.

The largemouth bass is found in all waters from freshwater to brackish (a mix of fresh and saltwater) waters. They like large, slow-moving rivers or streams with soft bottoms.
They especially like clear water. Immature largemouth bass may tend to congregate in schools, but adults are usually solitary. Sometimes several basses will gather in a very small area, but they do not interact. Largemouth bass seeks protective covers such as logs, rock ledges, vegetation, and man-made structures. They prefer clear quiet water but will survive quite well in a variety of habitats.

What Kind of Fish Live in Brackish Water

Having lived Bayside in New Jersey I fished the Mullica River that empties in the Little Egg Harbor Bay. So I was catching flounder and Bull Shark in the creeks and inlet where they emptied into the Bay but we were looking for Striper Bass. It was not uncommon to catch Ocean fish out of the Brackish canal near the Bay. They were loaded with crab and baitfish like Spot and Snapper Bluefish all these types of fish run down here close to the Jersey Shore area.

There are plenty of Ocean dwellers that were using the tide in the river to bring them their dinner every night so there was great fishing here in this area at the mouth where salt-water and fresh water mixed with the ocean always winning pushing back up the creeks and bogs filling them up with crabs and baitfish. Some of the Saltwater fish that can end up in the Brackish marshes are:

  • Atlantic croaker
  • Bay anchovy
  • Black drum
  • Bluefish
  • Bull sharks
  • Flounders
  • Gars
  • Jumping mullet
  • Ladyfish
  • Red Drum
  • Tarpon

Estuaries that generally have brackish shallow bodies of water which are exposed to sunlight throughout. Because of their optimum conditions for habitation, estuaries often function as the first homes for various types of aquatic lifeforms before they leave for the ocean. The hospitable conditions of estuaries allow for a diverse range of organisms to live within the estuary, such as algae, marsh grasses, brackish fish, crabs, shrimp, and oysters.

A lot of these types of environments are very harsh for living in even for insects and organisms. But they have one thing in common with other fish and aquatic life in that they are able to adapt to salinity in the water. There is also the other side of the coin wherein some Estuaries where freshwater rivers empty into the sea, some species of plants can tolerate brackish water, but many cannot.

When brackish water is introduced to an area that originally contains freshwater, usually as a result of human activity, many species of plants can be killed. This is a major concern in the wetlands of Southern Louisiana. There are also lakes and seas which are naturally made of brackish water around the country. In some locations, the freshwater that turned Brackish will start to flourish with aquatic life that is able to adapt and maintain a successful existence in this harsh environment.

Find any spot lake or river whether it’s near your home or on vacation and any fish in the Salt, Fresh or Brackish waters near any city or near any coastline. Go fishing for any species.

Bait & Lure to Use for Bass In Brackish Water

Most fishermen agree that live shrimp is a live bait of choice for fish living in Brackish water. Shrimp and finger mullet are two natural baits that generally work well when fishing in brackish areas. If you prefer using artificial baits or lures, you can try spoons, bucktail jigs, and topwater poppers.

Spinnerbait for Largemouth- The Spinnerbait can appeal to that predatory instinct of that Largemouth Bass that are on their lonesome hunting the brown water further up the creek. Spinnerbaits are a good lure for working around shallow Brackish marshes and bogs that are filled with stumps, grass, bulkheads, and boat docks. The most common technique of fishing a spinnerbait is to retrieve it from within a few inches on the top of the water to a couple of feet underneath the surface.

Even when the brown murky water is impossible to see into a Largemouth Bass will hit a Spinnerbait the same way they hit one on a small lake from the side and by surprise. Most anglers agree that for Largemouth, to work the lure as soon as it hits the water. Large and Smallmouth Bass feed on minnows, sunfish, gizzard shad, insects, frogs, and occasionally snakes. Just like Bluefish which are also a top predator in their kingdom Largemouth will feed on smaller younger Bass if they so desire to.

Use med rod in this water environment something like this Rod Q Model QRX Baitcasting Rod – Custom Tournament Grade – Limited Edition and med action reels Daiwa SALTIST40P Saltist Star Drag Power Gear 4Crbb + 1 5.1: 1 Fishing Reel

Largemouth Bass Behavior

Some Fishermen say in Brackish water they have the best luck on outgoing tides fishing near a structure and with the tidal flow.  Folks try to fish with the tide movement as much as they can whether the tide is coming in or out. I warmer months and lower rainfall months the salt intrusion can be stronger so freshwater species like a Largemouth will tend to move further up the creeks toward freshwater. With draught months, lower rainfall, and low tide the Bass will congregate together farther up the tidal creeks and this sometimes puts them all together. What is pretty surprising is how tolerant a Largemouth Bass can tolerate. That is why you’ll see Striper Croaker and Largemouth caught along the same area.

Another way for an angler looking for Largemouth is to taste the water for salt content. You can get an idea where they might be by sampling the salinity along the creek. You do this enough then you will get an idea of where to start. So it’s common sense that tells you that although Bass will hang in cover in saltier water they will also move further inland to find fresher water. When you’re done for the day make sure you clean your tackle and equipment. Take sampling one step further in a scientific approach instead of tasting the water-Test it for Salinity with an Atago PAL-Salt Cup Style Salinity Meter, 0 to 10% Salt Concentration   You can decipher exactly what type of Brackishwater and what % salinity your fish are comfortable in the area where you fish. Largemouth has a tolerant range in pH & salt content that they will use as a habitat. Information that you can use right from your tackle box.

Freshwater lures, especially the eyes, will rust quickly when used in brackish water.  And clean and rinse your rod and reel with some dishwashing liquid and rinse it off good. A lot of times Largemouth will hold off on the side of moving creek water hiding in the cover of logs and down trees and snag baitfish moving with the current as they go by.



   JimGalloway Author/Editor






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