Florida’s mystery bass rumble may be sound of frisky fish mating

<span>Photograph: Robert S. Michelson/Tom Stack & Assoc./Alamy</span>
Photograph: Robert S. Michelson/Tom Stack & Assoc./Alamy

A strange noise that for years has been bothering residents of Florida could actually be the sound of fish mating – loudly.

Residents of a neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, have been frustrated by a mysterious bass sound in their surroundings, the Washington Post reported.

And they have learned the mating process for black drum fish – a species living off the Atlantic coast – could be responsible for all the racket, according to a local scientist who was enlisted to find the sound’s source, the Post reported.

Related: Listen to a toadfish’s grunt! AI helps decode a ‘symphony’ of ocean sounds

“This is a pretty uncommon phenomenon,” scientist James Locascio said to the Post. “All these people are surprised by it because it’s not well known.”

The deep sound, sometimes accompanied by a low vibration, has bothered neighbors since 2021 and triggered noise complaints to local police, WTVT reported.

For years, local residents were unable to pinpoint what was causing the noise, with some theorizing that a party boat, secret military base or even aliens were to blame.

The intermittent noise ultimately bothered neighbors so much that they reached out to Locascio, who agreed to help if residents could cover the cost of recording equipment for the investigation.

It took about a week for local residents to raise more than $2,500 for the equipment Locascio required.

“It seemed a little bit silly for me to be pursuing this so doggedly,” Sara Healy, the fundraiser’s organizer, said to the Post. “But on the other level, this is something that’s important to the community.”

With the money raised, Locascio – who works as a fisheries program manager for the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida – plans to place microphones underwater to determine exactly where the sound is coming from.

Locascio told WTVT that the mating sound of the black drum fish travels through the ground, explaining how residents living miles from the water can still hear it.

Black drum fish produce the bass-like sound by moving their muscles against their swim bladder, Locascio said to the Post.

While some neighbors are hesitant to accept Locascio’s theory, all agree that it has been irritating to not know the source of the sound.

Related: Under the skin of the ocean, there’s a super-loud fishcotheque going on | Philip Hoare

“You’re really spending all this time questioning your sanity,” Stephanie Kaltenbaugh said to the Post as she discussed not knowing from where the sound was coming.

Similar noises have been heard in other coastal cities in Florida. Last year, residents of Punta Gorda – about 100 miles south of Tampa – reported almost identical vibrations.

Punta Gorda government officials told concerned residents in a Facebook post that the sound was coming from black drum fish “during spawning season”, the Miami Herald reported.

“Punta Gorda residents living along canals frequently hear black drum calls in their homes during the spawning season,” the Facebook post said.

“This is possible because the low frequencies of these calls are able to travel through the ground and into the walls and floors of homes.”