Clemson, S.C. agency team up to study Bartram’s Bass in river

Unique fish native to the Savannah River Shoals being studied for hybridization.
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 6:30 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2021 at 7:05 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Savannah River Shoals is home to a unique type of black bass, the Bartram’s Bass. The Bartram’s Bass is only native to this stretch of the Savannah River in South Carolina and only one other waterway in Georgia. Clemson University and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) recently received a grant to study hybridization of these fish in our stretch of Savannah River.

They needed to find a way to catch these fish to sample them, so they teamed up with Friend of the Rapids. Lenny Birt founded Friends of the Rapids a few years back to help protect the plants and species that call it home. He reached out to Clemson initially to find out more about Bartram’s Bass and through a series of conversations the two parties realized they could both help each other out.

Friends of the Rapids teamed up with Clemson and SCDNR in late September to help gather samples on these unique fish. Birt says, “we spent the day down here catching the bass on lines, taking fin clippings, measurements, and they’re going to go back and do some genetic analysis to see how healthy this population is here”. They caught over 70 Bartram that day which provided a great sample size for scientists to analyze.

Mark Scott, Leader of Freshwater Fisheries Statewide Research for SCDNR, added, “they’ll be genotyped and we’ll know how pure those fish are, but they looked really good, the pictures I’ve seen look like high purity”. The biggest threat to the Bartram’s Bass is hybridizing with invasive fish, like Smallmouth Bass, but the main concern is hybridizing with Alabama Bass. Scott says, “the good news is that I didn’t see any pictures of fish from that trip in that section of the Savannah that looked like Alabama Bass, so really happy to see that”.

Scott says the best way to protect Bartram’s Bass is to not move fish outside of their native ranges. If Alabama Bass get into the Savannah River then that could be the end of the Bartram’s Bass. Birt added, “it’s good to know they’re putting in the effort to understand the species and we’d be willing to help if they want to come back”.

If you would like to join Friends of the Rapids, all you have to do is follow their instagram page @friendoftherapids and pick up trash whenever you’re out enjoying the rapids.

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