Striped Bass - World Fishing Network

Striped Bass

Posted by on Mar 17, 2000 7:12 PM | Fishing Tips & Techniques
Striped Bass Striped Bass Laura Salyers/NOAA

Appearance

Striped bass have full bodies with long horizontal black lines.

Maximum Size

Striped bass generally grow to lengths of up to 59 inches (149 cm) and weights of 55 to 77 pounds (25-35 kg). The largest striped bass on record is a 125-pound (56.8 kg) female caught off North Carolina in 1891.

Growth Rate

Growth rates are variable, depending on a combination of season, location, age, sex, and competition. Growth is more rapid during the second and third years of life, before striped bass reach sexual maturity, than during later years. After age 4, growth may be 2.5 to 3 inches a year until age 8. Starting at age 4, females grow faster than males. Growth occurs between April and October.

Geographic Range

In the Atlantic, from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to St. John’s River in Florida. Also found in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Louisiana. Striped bass has successfully been introduced in numerous inland lakes and reservoirs and to the Pacific coast where it now occurs from Mexico to British Columbia.

Habitat

Striped bass larvae and postlarvae drift downstream toward nursery areas located in river deltas and the inland portions of the coastal sounds and estuaries. Juveniles typically remain in estuaries for two to four years and then migrate out to the Atlantic Ocean. Striped bass spend the majority of their adult life in coastal estuaries or the ocean. Important wintering grounds are located from Cape Henry, Virginia, south to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Life Span

Striped bass are a long-lived species; they can live up to at least 30 years.

Food

Larvae and post-larvae feed on microscopic animals in riverine and estuarine areas; adults feed on a variety of invertebrates and fish species, particularly clupeids such as menhaden and river herring.

Reaches Reproductive Maturity

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US Army Corps of Engineers

Males mature between the ages of 2 and 4; females mature between the ages of 4 and 8.

Reproduction

Striped bass are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn. Mature female striped bass (>age 4) produce large quantities of eggs, which are fertilized by mature males (>age 2) in riverine spawning areas. While developing, the fertilized eggs drift with the downstream currents and eventually hatch into larvae. The larvae and post-larvae begin feeding on microscopic animals during their downstream journey. After their arrival in the nursery areas, located in river
deltas and the inland portions of coastal sounds and estuaries, they mature into juveniles.

Spawning

Striped bass typically spawn from April to June, as they migrate into fresh or brackish water with temperatures between 50 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit (10-23°C). In general, the Chesapeake Bay spawning areas produce the majority of coastal migratory striped bass, with significant contributions from the Delaware River and Hudson River stocks.

Migrations

Generally migrate north and south seasonally and ascend to rivers to spawn in the spring. Males in the Chesapeake Bay may forego coastal migrations and remain within the Bay.

Predators

Predators of small striped bass include bluefish, weakfish, cod, and silver hake while adult striped bass have few predators, with the possible exception of seals and sharks.

Information above courtesy of NOAA.

What Are Stripers?

The term ‘stripers’ refers to the sport fish known as striped bass. As striper fishing has long been a popular pastime on the Atlantic coast of the United States, the striped bass actually represents the state saltwater fish of New Hampshire and New York, as well as the official state fish of Rhode Island, Maryland and South Carolina. Their native range extends all along the Atlantic coastline of the North American continent from the St. Lawrence River and Nova Scotia right down to the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Louisiana. A massive range to begin with, stripers travel even further as they head into freshwater territory to spawn, much like steelhead and salmon.

Beyond their native range, striped bass have been introduced as game fish into a variety of waters not only in the United States and Canada, but also other parts of the world. In some places, these fish are actually kept in landlocked bodies of water that are far different from what they would normally choose as a habitat. Beyond North America, due to their high levels of suitability as food fish, striped bass have been introduced into the waters of countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, South Africa, Latvia, Turkey, Russia and Iran. Here they are often fished for sport by local anglers or even raised as aquaculture exclusively for human consumption.

In terms of their appearance, stripers have a very streamlined body that is silver in color and marked with very distinctive dark stripes that run from their gills to the base of their tail. They can grow up to six-and-a-half feet in length and have been recorded weighing up to a whopping 125 pounds. This makes perfect sense when you consider that a striper is capable of living up to three decades, an amazing feat for any fish. Their size and typical bass fighting spirit makes for an enjoyable catch.

It should be noted that stripers have been hybridized with different species of fish, such as white bass. This produces a hybrid called a ‘wiper’ that is often stocked in the parts of the US as a purely game fish.

How Does The Striper Life Cycle Work?

The majority of any striper’s life is going to be spent out in the Atlantic Ocean, which is where the vast bulk of striper fishing is done. However, they do return to freshwater to reproduce. Freshwater striper fishing is at its best when they are on their way out of spawning areas and heading back to saltwater.

The primary locations in which stripers are known to breed are the Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, the Hudson River , the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River. This is their current stronghold now, but many fish scientists believe that many of the tributary rivers that flow to the Atlantic used to serve as spawning grounds for stripers many years ago, before efforts to conserve the fish were taken up as a serious cause. Even former President George W. Bush signed legislation to make the striped bass a protected species under federal laws and encouraged states to do what they could to conserve this popular sport fishing species for anglers and to restore natural balance in the local ecology.

Aside from these top areas where striper fishing is done, some lesser known places where these bass are prominent in some form are Lake Marion in South Carolina, where a dam’s construction landlocked the breeding population there, as well as the Arkansas River and nearby Lake Texoma. In addition, the California Delta near where the Sacramento flows into the Pacific Ocean also now hosts these incredible fish. These are places where striper fishing in freshwater environs is possible.

What Is Striper Fishing Like?

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Utah DNR

For starters, fishing for stripers is going to depend largely on the location. Since these fish live in both freshwater and marine environments, taking into account the natural surroundings is essential. This way, you will be able to customize your approach to that particular population of fish. A number of different baits will work for these fish, including live or cut bait. The baits that many anglers prefer range from clams, sand worms, herring, and eels to, shad, menhaden, and squid. Once in a while these fish get picky so when fishing for stripers always be on the look out for a way to spice up your mix of baits and lures to try and entice the fish you really want. Most anglers suggest shad as the top bait for fishing for striper in freshwater conditions, especially as the primary diet for stripers are fish.

There are certain times of year when surf fishing for striped bass is going to work very well and those who want to know exactly when should ask a fishing guide in their area, since this will vary from one place to the next. With surf fishing, you’ll need a 10-12 foot rod with 20-30 pound test line. The fish is often referred to as a ‘lazy feeder,’ often because it swims up current and waits for prey to come to it rather than trying to hunt for food on its own. So when you’re out on the water, ensure you’re trolling or reeling into the current for best results.

Very long battles are common with the smart and determined striper, some can even last over half-an-hour long. The largest striper ever caught with rod-and-reel was way back in 1982, a 78.5 pound monster just outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey way back in 1982.

Some Tips For Those Looking To Fish For Stripers

Scientific research has shown that 90 percent of this species’ diet consists of fish of one species or another. This means that making sure your lure at least looks like this will go along way towards landing that trophy striper.

When blood worms, clams and shad are not cutting it, try out sand fleas or even crustaceans that feed in the wash from the surf. You might be surprised at just how well they will work for you. Eel and squid work remarkably well as bait, especially when surf casting.

If you see stripers schooling then many expert striper fishing guides will tell you to use an artifical lure after they have begun feeding. The baitfish’s size should determine the size of the lure you choose. Topwaters, spoons and very large plugs are all capable of working, as well as artificial eels, so be sure to try everything in your arsenal when angling for a striper. Don’t be afraid to change it up for this finicky fish.

The best time to go out for stripers is at night. You may have success during the day, but the fish is primarily a nocturnal feeder.

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