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Warmouth, Coosa Bass, Rock Bass, Bream....No Matter What They Are, They Fight Hard

Updated on July 27, 2012

Warmouth Or RedEye?

Adam Hoff catches one of the marvels of freshwater evolution.
Adam Hoff catches one of the marvels of freshwater evolution.

Warmouth, Coosa Bass, Rock Bass, Bream....No Matter What They Are, They Fight Hard

by Robb Hoff

July 27. 2012

I've spent a fair share of time in my writing days researching and writing about one of the more intriguing figures of the early American naturalist movement -- Rafinesque.

What one academic type or another ultimately thinks about Rafinesque will most likely depend upon their field of study.

Be it botany, butterflies, mollusk, American Indians, freshwater fish or medical studies at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, you're impression of Rafinesque -- if you're lucky enough to have one -- will likely depend upon your connection to his particular field of knowledge.

As one drawn to the fishing side of things, my interest in Rafinesque primarily revolved around two distinct fish species:

The Devil-Jack Diamond Fish and The Kentucky Bass.

Now the Devil-Jack Diamond Fish turned out not to be real. It was a concoction of famed naturalist painter John James Audubon, who made up the enormous Ohio River fish with scales so hard that flint would spark from them in order to discredit Rafinesque.

And taking the bait, Rafinesque included a sketch of the fictional fish in his turn of the 19th century book about the fishes of the Ohio River, Ichthyologia Ohiensis: Natural History of the Fishes Inhabiting the River Ohio and Its Tributary Streams.

Once Audubon let the cat out of the bag -- or the fish out of the water in this case -- Rafinesque's reputation took a hit and his prolific enterprise of providing genus and species nomenclature to identify anything and everything under the early American frontier sun was reviewed under a much different lens.

History proved that Rafinesque pursuits were genuinely non-fiction and not of the fictional nature of the Devil-Jack Diamond Fish, but that didn't stop another naturalist -- the often-revered Dr. James Henshall -- from casting yet another aspersion on the legacy of Rafinesque.

In his tome Book of the Black Bass that Henshall wrote nearly a half century after Rafinesque died, Henshall stripped Rafinesque of what would turn out to be one of his more famous discoveries --- that of the spotted or Kentucky Bass.

Henshall had argued that Rafinesque's Kentucky Bass was in fact no different than a largemouth bass, and this revocation of Rafinesque's find remained intact until nearly 50 years later when Carl Hubbs reconfirmed Rafinesque's original findings that the Kentucky Bass was indeed a species as different as the largemouth was from the smallmouth.

And that brings me to the picture of the fish that my son Adam is holding.

It is not just a run-of-the-mill bluegill, bream or rock bass.......or maybe it is, which actually illustrates the point here about how much of a marvel even the smallest of panfish like this can present because it is in-and-of-itself an absolute evolutionary wonder.

I would classify the fish my son caught as a Warmouth Bass, and I might be right. But more importantly in my son's growing experience with freshwater fish that we encounter, he came to know this fish first and foremost by its spirited battle as it fought to free itself from the Beetle Spin lure used to catch it.

Furthermore, he was able to experience the difference between this fish and the bluegill/sunfish varieties similar to it by the larger mouth of the fish, which allowed him to grip and hold it like one would a largemouth bass.

All in all, this little fish pictured won't live up to the fish tale scale of a Devil-Jack Diamond Fish or swirl in the waters of naming rights controversy like the Kentucky Bass, but for a brief moment in time we were witnesses to the miraculous backwater of creation that continues to spawn life from nothing in ways that make us feel more alive than ever.


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    • Robb Hoff profile image

      Robb Hoff 5 years ago from Cincinnati, Ohio

      We'll be hitting the Ohio River tomorrow morning below the Markland Dam -- no telling what kind of creature we'll pull up out of the river!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      Keep taking that boy fishing. It will mean a lot in his life and kids he may have in the future. Nice hub.