Northern Rock Bass (Goggle-Eye)

Ambloplites rupestris


Image of a northern rock bass
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Centrarchidae (sunfishes) in the order Perciformes (perch-like fishes)


Thicker-bodied than most other sunfish with large mouth and very large eyes. Spiny dorsal fin with 12 spines broadly connected to soft dorsal fin. Anal fin with 6 spines. Color variable but generally dark brown to bronze above, often blotched on sides. Distinct pattern of dark spots arranged in parallel lines along the sides differentiates the northern rock bass from closest relatives the Ozark bass and shadow bass.


Total length: to 11 inches; weight: to 1 pound; maximum about 17 inches and 2 pounds, 12 ounces.

Habitat and conservation

Streams of the northern Ozarks, tributaries of the middle Mississippi, and a portion of the southwestern Ozarks. Rarely in Ozarks reservoirs. Larger individuals found around boulders, logs and vegetation beds in deep pools. Most active twilight hours of dawn and dusk, and at night.


Crayfish and aquatic insects; occasionally terrestrial insects and small fish.

Northern Rock Bass Goggle-Eye distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Occurs in the northern and southwestern Ozarks.


This game fish was previously recognized as a single species known as “rock bass,” but two very close relatives of the northern rock bass have been recognized in Missouri. Although nearly identical in behavior, habitat and life histories, the shadow bass (Ambloplites ariommus) and Ozark bass (Ambloplites constellatus) differ from northern rock bass and from each other primarily by where they are found.

Life cycle

Individuals can live 7 to 9 years.