Fishy Sounds

Fishy Sounds

by John Roberts


Scientists tell us that 1000 species of fish have the ability to make sounds and communicate with other fish, the main topic of their conversations being SEX. Dr. Gene Wilde, Fish Ecologist at Texas Tech states “Most fish sounds are associated with breeding.” By placing hearing devices called hydrophones in the water, scientists can listen to the sounds fish make that are much more numerous during spawning season (springtime) than any other time of the year. By making sounds, fish are like many other animals that make sounds – they are soniferous.

How do they make these sounds and what do the scientists hear? The teeth and lips of the Bass and Bluegill in our ponds are the sound producers. With the teeth these fish have in the back of their mouths, they can rub the teeth together and produce a sexual grinding sound. With such a large mouth the sounds that the Largemouth makes are more intense than most other fresh water fish. Another name we call the Largemouth is Bigmouth but we are quite sure other fish in the ponds call them “Loudmouth”!

The lips can also be sound producers. The lips of the Largemouth Bass and to some extent the Bluegill, are rough and we call them “sandpaper lips”. And by rubbing them together you get a…what else… a sandpaper sound.

Bass fishermen have a saying “Let me see your thumb”. If red, rough, or raw, you know the fisherman had a very good day catching fish and “lipping them”, holding them with the thumb in the fish’s sandpaper-like lip. John says that his thumbs are too often smooth as silk [We are not sure we believe that, John!]. Scientists hear no sounds when a fish is hooked and caught.


TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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