Striped bass identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods and techniques.
Striped bass are native to the Atlantic coastline of North America from the St. Lawrence River into the Gulf of Mexico to approximately Louisiana. They are anadromous fish that migrate between fresh and salt water. Spawning takes place in fresh water. Striped bass have also been hybridized with white bass to produce hybrid striped bass also known as sunshine bass, palmetto bass, or wiper with the white perch to produce white perch hybrid also known as Virginia bass or Maryland bass; and yellow bass to produce paradise bass. These hybrids have been stocked in many freshwater areas across the U.S. Striped bass are of significant value as sport fishing, and have been introduced to many waterways outside their natural range. A variety of angling methods are used, including trolling and surfcasting. Striped bass will take a number of live and fresh baits including bunker, clams, sandworms, herring, bloodworms, and mackerel.
The Striped Bass - Morone saxatilis, also known as a stripers, rock or rockfish is a typical member of the Moronidae family in shape, having a streamlined, silvery body marked with longitudinal dark stripes running from behind the gills to the base of the tail. Four important bodies of water with breeding stocks of striped bass are: Chesapeake Bay, Massachusetts Bay/Cape Cod, Hudson River and Delaware River. They found in the Atlantic, from Canada to Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Louisiana.
The striped bass is easily recognized by their elongated bodies, pale olive to blue backs, silvery sides, and 7 to 8 horizontal black stripes that run along the scale rows on each side of its long. One stripe runs along the lateral line, and the remainders are about equally divided above and below it. The first dorsal fin has 8 -10 spines and second, 10-13 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines followed by 7-13 soft rays. The dorsal fins are completely separated. The striped bass is the largest member of the sea bass family. Fish has two distinct tooth patches on the back of the tongue and two sharp points on each gill cover. The second spine on the anal fin is about half the length of the third spine in striped bass. Maximum size is 200 cm (6.6 ft) and weight 57 kg (125 US pounds). Striped bass are believed to live for up to 30 years.
Habitat and Habits
The striped bass can live in both freshwater and saltwater environments. In coastal populations, individuals may ascend streams and travel as much as 100 miles inland to spawn. There are land-locked populations that complete their entire life cycle in freshwater. Striped bass spawn in freshwater and although they have been successfully adapted to freshwater habitat, they naturally spend the majority of their adult life in coastal estuaries or the ocean. Juveniles typically remain in estuaries for two to four years and then migrate out to the Atlantic Ocean. Striped bass larvae and postlarvae drift downstream toward nursery areas located in river deltas and the inland portions of the coastal sounds and estuaries. It is now the official marine fish of the State of New York.
Striped bass are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals. 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, banker and river herring.
Striped bass are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn. Naturally spending their adult lives in saltwater, they have been successfully adapted to freshwater habitat. Males mature between the ages of 2 and 4 while females first time to spawn is at 4 - 8 years. After about 3 years, at the juvenile stage, the females begin to migrate to the ocean where they mature. The males tend to remain in the estuary longer than the females. After 5 to 7 years, females return to spawn for the first time. It takes several years for spawning females to reach full productivity. An average 6 year old female produces half a million eggs while a 15 year old can produce three million.
Striped bass typically spawn from April to June, as they migrate into fresh or brackish water. When water temperature begins to rise to 58 to 73°F, mature fish begin their spawning runs in flowing water of Rivers. Most Atlantic Coast striped bass spawn in freshwater rivers and streams of Chesapeake Bay. Other important areas include the Hudson River, Delaware River and rivers along the North Carolina coast.
During spawning, 7 or more males surround a single large female and bump her to the waters surface. Near the surface the female turns on her side with rolling and splashing. The males continue bumping her to release her eggs. Mature female striped bass at age 4 and up produce large amount of eggs, which are fertilized by mature males age 2 and up in riverine spawning areas. Spawning can last several days. While the eggs are still in the female, they are only about 1/25 inch in diameter, but after release, they absorb water and increase to about four times the original size and possess a tiny oil globule. This change makes the egg approximately the same density of the surrounding water. While developing, the fertilized eggs drift with the downstream currents and eventually hatch into larvae.
Because they are only semi-buoyant, the eggs require enough water flow to stay suspended for 2 or 3 days until they hatch, although the length of time depend on temperature; hatching is quickest in warm water. The eggs are easily carried by the water currents. They are transparent, making them virtually invisible. Less than one percent of the eggs will survive the fist two months. The larvae and post-larvae begin feeding on microscopic animals during their downstream journey. Larval striped bass obtain nutrients from the yolk sac for about 5 to 7 days after hatching. The larvae are particularly vulnerable to pollution, starvation and predators during this stage. After that, they feed on tiny crustaceans which are just visible to the naked eye, and on zooplankton as they move downstream. After their arrival in the nursery areas, located in river deltas and the inland portions of coastal sounds and estuaries, after about a month the fry reach 2 inches long, they mature into juveniles and they start feeding primarily on mysid shrimp and amphipods.
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. 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 parental care for these eggs, and will move back to the lake once the eggs are laid and fertilized.
A wide variety of fishing methods are successfully employed, including trolling, jigging, bait fishing, surf casting, fly fishing, drift fishing, still fishing and spinning. Baits and lures include mullet, squid, eels, crabs, clams, bloodworms, plugs, spoons, flies, and casting lures. Stripers are hearty eaters, most actively feeding in water temperatures between 70 and 72°F at depths between 20 to 50 feet, sometimes suspended over much deeper water. They may locate over old creek beds or channels, near sunken islands, along ridges with adjacent drop-offs, or near bridges. In fall, stripers move into shallow flats and chase schools of shad near the surface. Fall can be an exciting time for striper fishing, compared with winter, when stripers tend to stay deep and roam less. As waters became warm, best trolling with live-bait shad or bluegill. When using bait, always use a fresh specimen; replace lethargic bait frequently. Try still-fishing with live bait from an anchored boat or slowly adrift. Use 1-1/2 to 4 ounces of lead in a bead-chain weight to keep the bait at the proper depth. When stripers is in deep water, it is better to try jigging or trolling with a downrigger.
Striped bass are notorious for seasonal diets. When the herring are running they will not feed heavily on other thing such as bloodworms, eels, etc. When the eels arrive the same thing applies. So to increase your catches, feed them what they want. When fishing the surf try to use live clams cut out the foot or tongue thread it on your hook a couple of times and good luck, also try squid, bloodworms or frozen herring.
Fillet a sardine and cut the fillets into several pieces. Put two or three on a hook to catch huge stripers. When they're on top chasing fish on the surface, toss a hair raiser jig and bring it back slow. They'll barely take it but set the hook. Stripers are often captured using artificial lures that imitate small fish, such as silver spoons. Deep running lures can also be effective, as may live bait, or cut bait.
Try to get as close to "live water" as possible. River mouths, harbors and lagoon entrances are all areas where the flood and ebb tide surge in and out creating ideal conditions for hungry bass. During the spring and fall, dusk and dawn is best. During the dreaded 90+ degree daytime mid-summer doldrums, 11am onward to about an hour after first light is most productive. It is important to entice bass into striking with what they would normally feed on. Clams (belly and all) are hard to beat in the surf. Squid and cut fish (bunker is best, but mackerel, herring and spearing are all great bass baits) are also effective. Bass have excellent eye sight and exhibit a high sense of situational awareness, so keep terminal tackle to a minimal and if fishing from the shore, try to get as far away from boat traffic as possible. Red colored hooks works better. Seawalls, piers and jetties with water deeper than 20 feet are best. Don't be discouraged by limitations of fishing from the shore, the largest striped bass caught on line and hook was a 78lb cow caught from an Atlantic city jetties. Whenever possible, the sure fire bait of choice should be fresh bunker, whether chunked or live lined. This is the stripers preferred food of choice. The head is the best bait if you're following a school of bluefish that are ripping up a school of bunker. The bass just lie on the bottom & wait for the bunker remains to come to them. The head is what is usually left of a bunker after a bluefish attacks it. When stripers are spawning, try fishing dead shad on bottom. When they just bite the tail use the head only. Shrimp with bottom weights let the hook float above....have had no trouble catching smaller striped bass about 20 meters from shore. The best time to catch striped bass is at nighttime. Try to have a slider on your hook for your weight because they can feel the weight when they take the bait. When fishing at high tide look for an area that has some sort of structure rock, shipwreck, and fallen trees.
Around bridges / rocky areas, use regular bucktails with a porkrind on the hook, (2-4") - Cast and retrieve, start off retrieving fast to catch fishes attention, and then slow it up. Around non-snag areas, use cut-bait, menhaden, and squid, cast it with plenty of weight for the tide, and be patient. Spraying herring chunks with wd-40 before casting will give you better result.
Striped bass are great eating provided.