Bass live in a world very different from ours. We have skin. They have scales. We have feet. They have fins. We sleep about 8 hours a day. They never sleep.
What!? Never sleep!
That’s right. Many scientists believe that bass and most other fish don’t sleep. Perhaps that is why they are so cranky early in the morning when you throw a topwater bait over their heads.
“Bass don’t have eyelids and so they can’t close their eyes,” says David Campbell, a fisheries biologist and coordinator of the Texas ShareLunker program.
So, instead of fish-napping, they simply “rest” in an upright position around a rock or log or grassbed. Many anglers believe that bass and other fish are more likely to relax during the day when the moon is full and feed at night.
A few species, such as the clown loach, actually lie on their backs or sides when they want to rest.
If you were a bass, you probably wouldn’t want to sleep either. Your life would be too short to waste in bed. The oldest bass caught was believed to be between 22 and 24 years old. But the average bass lives only about 10 years, which makes one bass year equal to about eight human years.
During those 10 years, they eat hundreds of minnows, crawfish, and other critters. They use tiny teeth to capture and hold this food. Not once, though, do they ever chew it. Instead, they swallow it whole.
Because of such habits, your mother probably would not approve of you inviting them to dinner.
And what do bass drink with their one-bite meals? Why, water of course, even though that also is what they breathe. Just like us, fish need water in their bodies. They also absorb it through their skins.
Even saltwater fish drink water, but, with the help of their gills, get rid of the salt. That’s why a fish from the ocean doesn’t taste salty when you eat it.
Since bass breathe water, as well as drink it, they can’t drown. Right?
Fish can drown, but not in the same way that people do. In water, they might drown--- or suffocate--- if a stringer or some other object prevents their gills from working. Pollution and dirt also can interfere. A few years ago, thousands of fish drowned because of beer spilled into a Colorado stream.
Out of water, a fish’s gills can not control its oxygen intake, and so it “drowns” in air. That’s why it’s so important to return a bass to the water as quickly and gently as possible.
A bass’ table manners might shock your mother, but it’s a sport fish worthy of being caught more than just once.
(This article was published originally in CastingKids, a magazine for young anglers from B.A.S.S. Publications.)