Calico Bass
Typical Size
7-9" (4-8 oz.)
Decent Size
10-12" (3/4-1.5 lbs.)
Nice Size
13-15" (2-3 lbs.)
16.2" (4 lbs. 8 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

2 lbs.
Genus/Species Pomoxis nigromaculatus
Common Names crappie, bachelor perch, papermouth, speckled perch, grass bass, speck
Hot Spots Furnace Pond, Robbins Pond, Maquan Pond
Best Time Year-Round
Best Baits live shiners, jigs, plugs
Best Method Jigging

Let me start by saying that I realize that there are two different species - white and black. However, since they both are generally the same size, color, and share the same habits and habitats, for the purpose of this website, it really doesn't matter. I have cross- referenced the fish I have caught with photos in books and believe that all the calicos on the south shore are of the "black" species, Pomoxis nigromaculatus. Generally calico bass are pale green to silvery with numerous black specks, in no particular order, with darker backs and paler undersides. They have fairly compressed bodies similar to sunfish, a slightly forked tail fin, and a slightly turned up head and mouth. They have relatively large mouths with harmlessly small teeth.

Calico Bass
Calico bass over a foot long like this one are a rare treat.
Calico bass live in a variety of habitats including lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. They can tolerate polluted water and temperature extremes better than most fish. Voracious predators, calico bass travel in large schools preying heavily upon smaller fish, insects, and crustaceans. During the mid-summer months they can be seen busting the surface like bluefish after another school of fish or a hatch of insects.

Although not indigineous to Massachusetts, it is tough not to find a town that does not have at least one pond supporting a calico bass population. Calico bass have been successfully introduced in all 48 contiguous states and have adapted well. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, just about every pond contains at least some. The ponds with a strong alewife herring migration support some rather large and healthy populations.

Spawning takes place in the spring in late April/early May near shore. They build nests similar to sunfish in circular patterns in the sand or gravel bottom. The male then guards the nest and defends the young until they start to feed.

You can fish for calico bass with many different kinds of bait. The most popular live bait is probably the worm, however it also catches the smallest fish. Since young calico bass tend to feed on small aquatic insects and freshwater plankton, the smaller baits work just fine. They will hit mealworms, crickets, and grass shrimp hooked on a simple worm and bobber rig or a perch bait rig. However, if you want larger calico bass, remember they are predators and a live minnow on a shiner bait rig designed for bass and pickerel will work well.

Personally, though, I find that the calico bass takes an artificial lure easier than probably any other species I know. The best lure is the jig. Easy to employ, simply tie on a a small panfish jig and cast out, letting it sink to the bottom. Slowly retrieve it back to shore or boat, while constantly bouncing it off the bottom. If there are calico in the area, they will hit it. Another great artificial lure to bring for calico bass are small surface swimming plugs, like CD-5 or CD-7 Rapalas. Although, they'll hit them retrieved slowly, I find the best action occurs when I simply "twitch" them on the surface, like a jerk bait. They will also attack spoons and spinners as well.

Fishing for Calico Bass is an extremely important recreational fishery, as seen by the introduction of this species in every state. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, they are mainly by-catch. Stuck in the middle between gamefish and panfish, they are usually caught when either targeting sunfish or by anglers targeting largemouth bass. The flesh of the calico bass is considered delicious, however, never having eaten one, I cannot attest to this reputation. Considered an important panfish in the south and west, it is often pan fried, baked or grilled. Due to the ability of this fish to tolerate pollution, I would not recommend consuming the calico bass on the south shore. This species is not stocked and is self-sustaining throughout the south shore.