Yes, largemouth bass can survive in brackish water. Their survival depends entirely on the salinity levels in the water. Largemouth bass can adapt to their surroundings but can easily suffocate with too high saltwater content. Largemouth will move to different areas depending on the water quality.
When most anglers think of largemouth bass fishing, legendary lakes like Lake Fork in Texas or Lake Okeechobee in Florida come to mind. I never considered looking for largemouth bass near saltwater because I figured they couldn’t survive. It wasn’t until I had a chance to fish in the brackish water in the Mobile Delta in Alabama that my mind changed.
Salinity Content of the Brackish Water
One of the obvious factors that dictates whether bass can live in brackish water is the salinity level. Freshwater lakes have extremely low salt levels; most are less than 1 part salt per 1,000 gallons of water.
Brackish water, however, often has salinity levels upwards of 30 grams of salt per 1,000 gallons. Generally, oceans have a salinity between 35-38. Largemouth bass quickly dehydrate in water with salinity levels over 30.
All sorts of fish can thrive in water with salinity levels under 30. One cast, you could land a snook; the next, you could land a largemouth bass.
On my first trip to Florida, I fished in brackish water and loved it. I caught the most species of fish in one day on the water than I had in months of fishing.
The mix of freshwater and saltwater is an easy place for freshwater and saltwater fish to survive.
Largemouth Bass Survival in Brackish Water
Brackish water takes a variety of forms. Whether it’s an estuary or a swamp, certain types of brackish water will be better than others.
One of the factors that help largemouth bass to survive and stay active in brackish water is the current. Brackish water with a current is known as an estuary. Estuaries are river openings where a freshwater river meets salt water.
Moving water usually means a higher level of oxygenation. Even a slow-moving current creates more oxygen for largemouth bass.
Plus, if the current is moving in freshwater to mix with the saltwater, this helps largemouth bass.
Largemouth can adapt to these conditions and live normally in salty water, but their bodies will begin to shut down if the salinity levels become too high.
Their instincts will kick in, and they’ll naturally move toward freshwater whenever possible. However, they will die if they can’t move fast enough to get out of the high salinity content.
Swamps and Forests
If you’ve spent time fishing the mangrove forests in Florida, you know how many fish they can hold. These forests are along shorelines, and the saline levels within these swamps change as the tides change.
Freshwater gets mixed into these areas after rains, but the saline levels are usually fairly high, so largemouth bass can struggle to survive in a mangrove forest. I’ve caught peacock bass in these areas, but very few largemouth bass.
Where Largemouth Bass are Found in Brackish Water
Largemouth bass have their tendencies and habits regardless of where they live. Whether it’s a pond, stream, lake, or brackish water, largemouth are aggressive ambush predators.
Usually, they’ll spend time in water that’s 3 to 10 feet, depending on the time of day and water conditions.
Look for structure when fishing for largemouth bass in brackish water. Whether it’s weeds, trees, or rock piles, largemouth bass will hang nearby.
Brackish water is home to a multitude of food that largemouths love to eat, so they can choose smaller fish, crustaceans, and even small mammals if they spend time in the right spot.
Don’t think bass will sit in different areas because the water is different. They’ll stick with their usual holding areas as long as they can.
Tides are another factor for largemouth bass in brackish water. As the tide moves out, more freshwater will replace the saltwater. More freshwater is always good when fishing for largemouth in brackish water.
Low and high tides vary depending on where you’re fishing, but when I was fishing the Mobile Delta in Alabama, high tide was in the morning, and low tide happened later in the evening.
We’d fish an hour before and after the tides changed because of the increase in food choices and the changes in the saline levels. We landed 4- to 5-pound bass in these waters. They were large because of the abundant food sources.
Largemouth bass will be the most active during the mornings and evenings, so if you can time it with the tide changes, you’ll land plenty of largemouths.
All fish in brackish water will respond to the tide changes, so pay close attention to them when fishing brackish water.
Largemouth Bass in Saltwater
If largemouth bass move to water with a salinity level over 30, their life can end quickly. Their gills will swell, the freshwater will leave their cells, and they’ll have trouble regulating their body temperature.
They can quickly dehydrate if they can’t find less saline water.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Catch Bass in Brackish Water?
Don’t change your bass fishing habits in brackish water. Fish near structure and cover. Weed lines, fallen trees, and rock piles will all hold largemouth bass populations.
Throw live shrimp or finger mullet when fishing for bass in brackish water. Quality artificial baits include Whopper Ploppers, poppers, jigs, and spoons.
Do Largemouth Bass Live in Salt Marshes?
Depending on the salinity level, largemouth bass can live in salt marshes. Again, they can’t survive in water with a salinity level over 30, so do a saline test to determine if they could live there.
Can Largemouth Bass Live in Saltwater?
No, largemouth bass are not able to live in saltwater. Saltwater will dehydrate and kill largemouth bass.
Largemouth bass are hearty fish. Most anglers fish for them in freshwater lakes and rivers, but they are missing out on great largemouth bass fishing opportunities in brackish water.
If you’re fishing for largemouth in brackish water, start in lower saline levels and work towards the saltwater to get a good idea of where they’re holding.