- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Striped bass (Morone)
Striped bass are the largest members of the temperate bass family. They are primarily anadromous, which means they live in a saltwater habitat and migrate to fresh water only to spawn. Landlocked striped bass introduced in freshwater systems are the exception to this rule.
The body color of striped bass is olive-green, blue-gray or bluish-black on the top with silver sides and a white belly. It is easily identified by its seven or eight black stripes that run horizontally along its sides. Fins are dusky silver color, except for the white pelvic fins. Young striped bass may not have the horizontal stripes or they may be interrupted.
Striped bass also have two distinct dorsal fins. The first has seven to 12 stiff spines, which make this fin taller than the second. The second dorsal fin has only one stiff spine with eight to 14 soft rays. Stripers also have a forked tail.
Many freshwater anglers have difficulty distinguishing striped bass from white bass and hybrids. The stripes on the striper are solid, unbroken and most will extend all the way to the tail. On whites and wipers, the stripes are faint and only one will extend to the tail on each side. Striped bass also have a longer, sleeker body and a larger head than white bass and hybrid. In addition, striped bass have two tooth patches on the tongue, as opposed to one.
Striped bass are found in abundant numbers along the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and West Coast of the United States. Along the East Coast, they range from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to the St. Johns River in Florida. Those native to the Mid-Atlantic (Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina) migrate north in the summer and return during the fall. In this region, the Chesapeake and Hudson River systems are the primary spawning grounds. Large numbers can also be found in the river systems of Maine during the summer months.
In the Gulf of Mexico, they can be found along the coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. On the Pacific Coast they range from the Columbia River in Oregon to southern California, with the greatest concentration around San Francisco Bay.
There have been numerous attempts to introduce striped bass into inland waters of the United States. Some states, such as Texas, have had much success. Stripers have been stocked in large reservoirs and their associated river systems throughout the Midwest and South. Survival and growth of stocked stripers depend heavily on an abundance of food species, primarily threadfin or gizzard shad, as well as plenty of deep water. Most inland waters lack the spawning conditions stripers require, so they must be maintained through continued stocking programs.
In their native saltwater environments, striped bass are regarded as “inshore” fish. They will not stray far from the coasts, preferring the security of medium depths (less than 100 feet) with the ability to move shallow in pursuit of food. They will generally travel in schools in search of abundant open-water baitfish and are often found near piers, flats, rocks, and surf troughs.
Although they spend most of their lives in ocean water near the coast, they migrate to freshwater rivers to spawn. Stripers will often swim up to 100 miles into tidal rivers to find proper spawning conditions.
When stocked in fresh water, they are likely to inhabit open-water areas for most of the year. True to their nomadic nature, striped bass will follow their preferred prey species instead of holding to cover or structure. They are less likely to be found near the shore unless they happen to be chasing a school of baitfish.
Although they are unable to spawn in most cases, freshwater stripers will still migrate into tributaries in attempts to spawn, most often in early spring. At these times, stripers are more easily found by fishermen in coves, dams, creek arms or the tributary itself.
Striped bass prefer water temperatures between 60 and 68 F but can tolerate a wide range of temperatures as evidenced by their native and introduced range.
The spawning season varies considerably depending on location as peak activity occurs when water temperatures reach the preferred 60 to 68 F range. This occurs around mid-February in Florida, mid-March to late July in California, and late June or July in the Northeast and Canada. The Chesapeake and Hudson rivers are especially active spots for striped bass spawning.
Striped bass require specific spawning conditions for successful reproduction, mainly the presence of current strong enough to keep the fish eggs suspended in the water long enough to allow them to hatch. This requires a relatively uninterrupted stretch of flowing fresh water of as long as 50 miles.
During spawning, as many as eight males will follow a single female. As they near the surface of the water, they will turn on their side and roll and splash. This is often referred to as a “rock fight.” During this event, the female releases between 180,000 and 4,500,000 eggs. Striped bass will continue to consume food during the spawning cycle, stopping only long enough to release their eggs or milt.
Adult striped bass offer no protection or care for these eggs, and will move back to the ocean once the eggs are laid and fertilized. In order to survive, eggs must remain aloft in the current until they hatch after about 48 hours. Once the egg hatches, the fingerling feeds on its yolk sac for approximately one week. After that, they feed on zooplankton as they move downstream toward the sea.
Young striped bass favor zooplankton and move to freshwater shrimp and midge larvae as they grow. Adult striped bass are known for ravenous appetites and predatory feeding habits. In salt water, the bulk of their diet is small fish such as herring, menhaden, flounder, silversides, and eels. They also consume significant quantities of worms, squid, and crabs. Land-locked freshwater stripers feed almost exclusively on large shad and minnow species, although they will consume mayflies (where available) when hatching near the surface.
Many fishermen have found striped bass to be more active feeders during the nighttime hours. As a result, they prefer to fish for striped bass in low-light conditions or at night. Also, striped bass move in schools and all fish within a school will generally feed at the same time on the same prey.
The greatest challenge in fishing for saltwater striped bass is determining what their favored foods are and which one they have selected to feed on at that time. Aside from those challenges, striped bass can be caught using virtually every fishing technique known (casting, trolling, jigging and fly-fishing) using nearly any type of bait or lure. Popular methods along the East Coast include surf casting, plugging from a drifting boat, drifting eels from a boat, fly-fishing with streamers and surface flies, jigging with feathered jigs, and trolling with sandworms.
In coastal waters, most anglers prefer to fish during the last part of the flood (high tide) or the early stages of the ebb (falling tide). Success will often depend less on the choice that fishermen make than on the preference of the striped bass in the area. In most coastal regions, spring and fall are the striped bass’ heaviest feeding periods. The spring bite results from a return to an active life after a quiet winter, while fall feeding is in preparation for the long winter migration.
June and October are generally the best months for striped bass fishing along the northeast coast. April, May, and November are the best bets farther south. July and August are the most productive times along the Pacific Coast, especially along San Francisco Bay. Winter months bring large numbers of striped bass to the Gulf Coast from Florida to Louisiana.
Finding striped bass in fresh water can be a more difficult task due to their nomadic nature. The use of live baits, cut bait, jigging, casting, and trolling can all bring success once the fish are found. Because stripers will roam open water in search of food, trolling is an often-used strategy, and the use of sonar equipment such as flashers and liquid crystal graphs is highly beneficial in finding not only striped bass but also the schools of baitfish on which they prey.
� Striped bass have been a commercially important fish in the United States since the 1600s.
� Striped bass have an excellent flavor, are easily filleted and can be prepared in a variety of ways.
� The number of striped bass has fluctuated in recent times along the Atlantic coast because of over-fishing by commercial fisherman and sportsmen alike. Since the mid-1990s, however, populations have experienced a strong comeback in this region.
� In the late 1970s, biologists created a hybrid striped bass, called the “wiper,” by crossing the striped bass with the freshwater white bass. The hybrid species has been successfully introduced in many waters (mainly reservoirs) throughout the central, southern and eastern United States. Although they have yet to experience successful reproduction, hybrid striped bass are better able to tolerate a wider range of biological and environmental conditions.