The Sea Bass Family or true bass family, habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
The temperate basses, family Moronidae are also called the true basses or by mistake sea basses, includes 6 freshwater and marine species in North America (Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico drainages), Europe and North Africa. This family separated from the sea bass family, Serranidae. The temperate basses are represented by 5 species: The
Striped Bass and hybrid between a white bass and a striped bass. They are medium-sized to large-sized active predators and favorite trophy and sport fishes. Some species live in fresh water and others are anadromous, which means that they spend much of their life in salt or brackish water but return to fresh water to spawn. Only 3 great small sport fishes: White Bass, Yellow Bass and White Perch are found only in fresh water. In this family the most popular food and game fish of North America — the Striped Bass. All members of the genus are inhabitants of large bodies of water such as rivers and reservoirs. They are piscivorous schooling fishes and are among the top carnivores in their respective habitats.
A temperate bass live in a variety of habitats. Large and small
Bays & Estuaries and nearshore ocean are all home to one or more species of these bass. True bass are found in waters with a salt content ranging from fresh to full seawater, and two species,
The White Perch and
Striped Bass, can easily move between fresh and saltwater.
Temperate basses are spiny-rayed fishes whose pelvic fins are far forward. The temperate basses are deep-bodied fish when viewed from the side, and narrow, or compressed, when viewed from the front. They are silvery and most have dark horizontal stripes on their sides. The scales are large and rough to the touch. All temperate basses have a spine on the outer rear part of the gill cover, and an area of gill-like, secretion-emitting tissue under the surface of the gill cover. They have two dorsal fins, the first with about 10 to 13 spines, the second with 1 spine and 9 to 14 soft rays. Temperate basses have anal fin with 3 spines, 9-12 soft rays, operculum with 2 spines and 7 rays branchiostegal. Lateral line extends the length of the fish to almost the posterior margin of caudal fin. Auxillary row of lateral line scales on the caudal fin above and below the main row. Species have a large mouth and a forked tail. The striped bass grows large. The white perch and white bass can grow to some 15 inches, a bit larger in the case of white bass, and weigh several pounds. The striped bass hybrid is a fast-growing sport fish whose length and weight fall between those of its parents.
True bass are distinct in appearance. They are generally silvery white in color and most have dark horizontal lines along their sides. True bass are spiny-rayed fish with strong spines in their dorsal fin (on a back), anal fin (on the bottom rear), and pelvic fin (on the bottom front). They have two separate, or only slightly connected, dorsal fins and numerous small teeth.
While many people think true bass are relatives of the
Smallmouth Bass and
Largemouth Bass, they are not. Smallmouth and largemouth bass are
The black bass, which are actually members of
The Sunfish family. True bass and
black bass not only differ in appearance, but also in habitat requirements and spawning behavior.
True bass spawn or reproduce in the spring. Adult bass migrate into rivers or shallow water areas of lakes to disperse their eggs. They are broadcast spawners, simply releasing the eggs into the water. Eggs hatch quickly, within two to four days. Unlike other fish, such as black bass, true bass do not build nests and do not provide parental care for the young.
All of the temperate basses are school fish, traveling and feeding in groups. They forage on smaller fishes, especially alewives, gizzard shad and smelt, following the little fish up from the depths to just below the water’s surface at night. The temperate basses also spawn in schools. Large numbers move from their saltwater or brackish water homes, or from large impoundments, into streams or onto underwater shoals in the spring. The eggs of white perch and white bass stick to vegetation or rock rubble. Striped bass eggs are semi-buoyant and drift downstream. In the large waterways in which they live, the temperate basses are usually top-level predator fish.
True bass release a tremendous number of eggs during spawning. A single female striped bass has been known to release as many as four million eggs! This huge number of eggs makes up for the lack of parental care and helps make sure enough young fish survive.
Bass feed on a wide range of organisms. Young bass eat insects and crustaceans. Older bass primarily eat small fish. True bass are schooling fish and can act together in an organized method of feeding. White bass are especially known to herd schools of baitfish to the surface. The bass then attack in a "feeding frenzy," often forcing the baitfish to jump out of the water.
Striped bass or "stripers" are the largest of New York's temperate basses. Female stripers grow larger than the smaller males. They are easily distinguished by the 7 to 9 dark horizontal lines found along their sides, 2 to 3 of which extend from the head to the base of the tail. These horizontal lines are more than just attractive coloration; they also contain a complex series of receptors that enable these fish to avoid collisions, react to water current direction changes and help them detect prey. With this sensitive radar system of neuromasts picking up movement through its
electroreceptors (hair cells), along with its keen sense of smell and eye-sight, stripers become very tactical hunters. They are especially active hunters at night.
Unlike white bass or white perch, stripers have a streamlined body shape, with the depth of the body generally less than the head length. Also Striped bass have two patches of teeth on the back of its tongue and points on the back of its gill plates. The striper's dorsal fins are also clearly separated into spiny and soft-rayed areas. The spiny fin is situated in front of the soft, consisting of 9 or 10 stiff spines. The rear dorsal fin is supported by 12 to 14 soft rays, being barely separated from the front one. The striped bass is dark olive green to steel-blue or black above with silvery sides and pearl white belly. Each side has seven or eight dark, horizontal stripes.
Striped bass are found in both fresh and saltwater. They generally occur around rocks and wrecks in nearshore waters,
rivers and large reservoirs. Striped bass are native to the
bays, estuaries and rivers of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Striped bass are stocked in many Southern reservoirs because of their popularity as a sport fish. Stripers are migratory fish. In the ocean, they move north in the summer and south in the fall and winter. Adult striped bass are voracious feeders, primarily eating fish and invertebrates, especially crabs and squid.
Striped bass are anadromous, migrating to freshwater from the sea to spawn. Spawning takes place in the Hudson River estuary in May and early June. They may travel as far as 100 miles upstream to spawn. Spawning takes place in areas with rapids and strong currents. A female is usually accompanied by a number of males. During spawning, the female and her accompanying males roll and splash at the water’s surface. The semibuoyant eggs are fertilized and carried downstream by the current. Eggs hatch within 75 hours. Stripers broadcast their eggs near the surface over deep water that has some current or turbulence. The semi-buoyant eggs drift with the current and hatch in two to four days. By early summer, young striped bass move to shallow water nursery areas of Haverstraw Bay and the Tappan Zee. In early fall, they begin to move out of the estuary to nearshore coastal areas. Adult stripers leave the estuary right after spawning and join other striped bass migrating along the Atlantic Coast.
White perch are the smallest members of true bass family, seldom reaching more than 12 inches in length. They are easily told apart from other true bass because white perch have no dark stripes and no patches of teeth on their tongues.
Like striped bass, white perch can live in both fresh and saltwater. Although white perch prefer brackish waters, they also live in
lakes and reservoirs. They often occur in large schools in turbid shallow areas. They are rapidly expanding their range in the state and can be found in the Hudson River and its tributaries south of Troy, small lakes east of the Hudson, fresh and brackish waters of Long Island, the Seneca River and Mohawk River systems, Oneida and Chautauqua Lakes, and in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
White perch are prolific breeders. Schools of spawning white perch crowd into tributary streams or along gravelly shoal areas in lakes and large rivers to deposit their eggs. The tiny eggs sink to the bottom and attach to vegetation and rocks. Young perch eat plankton and insects while older perch feed mostly on fish.
White perch are tasty fish with white, flaky flesh. At one time, they were an important commercial species in New York. Today, their large numbers and catchability make them popular panfish. Although small in size, they can put up a good fight when hooked. White perch are especially easy to catch in the spring during spawning. They can be caught by still fishing with worms or grubs, or by casting small flies or lures. Best catches are taken at dusk or after dark.
Strictly a freshwater species, white bass have a limited distribution in New York State. They are medium-sized (9 to 15 inches long) and sporty fish that are a favorite of local anglers. White bass occur in the open water habitat of large
lakes and reservoirs, as well as some large
streams and rivers. They prefer clear water over firm bottom and usually travel in large schools. Sometimes confused with striped bass, white bass can be distinguished by their deeper body shape and single tooth patch on the tongue. In addition, white bass have only one of their dark stripes run the entire body length from head to tail.
Spawning takes place in tributary streams, nearshore areas and over shoals. Female white bass release their eggs near the water surface. The eggs sink and attach to rocks, sticks and bottom vegetation and hatch within two to four days.
White bass are fast growing predators. Individuals up to 17 inches long and nine years of age have been taken in Oneida Lake. White bass are known for feeding at the surface in large schools. They primarily eat insects and fish.
White bass are locally popular sportfish. Their aggressive nature and schooling tendency make them one of the easiest fish to catch. The best fishing is in spring when schools of white bass move inshore. Casting or trolling streamer flies, jigs, spinners, and spoons or still fishing with minnows will produce good catches. Since white bass often feed near the surface, be sure to keep lures and bait off bottom.
White bass are typically inhabit the deeper pools of rivers and streams and the open waters of lakes and reservoirs. White bass are silver to blue-grey and have several thin and faded brown longitudinal stripes on their sides. White bass spawn in early spring. Mature males migrate upstream and into tributaries as much as a month before the adult females. In the spawning area, males group together in schools. Females usually school in deeper water near the spawning area. Spawning areas have a sand or gravel bottom. Spawning occurs when a female rises toward the surface of the water. This action signals several males to approach her and eggs and sperm are released simultaneously. The eggs settle to the bottom, attach and hatch in about two days. No parental care is provided.
The yellow bass is a deep bodied fish that is flattened side to side. The dorsal is separated into a spiny and soft portion. It is yellow-olive to silvery yellow along the back and sides. The belly and pelvic fins are light yellow. There are six or seven dark stripes on the sides that are offset and appear broken. A spine is present on the gill cover. It rarely exceeds threequarters of a pound. The state record fish weighed just over 1 1/2 pounds and was 14 1/2 inches long.
The yellow bass lives in natural lakes, reservoirs, and backwaters of large rivers. Historically it has been found in several constructed lakes and reservoirs in southern Iowa. These probably originated from fish transported from the Mississippi. Adults eat insects, crustaceans, and fish, including their own young. Spawning occurs in May. Eggs are deposited over gravel. They sink slowly to the bottom and hatch in four to six days. The yellow bass lives in schools in mid-water or near the surface. Few adults live past 4 or 5 years.
Hybrid bass are a cross between female
Striped Bass and male
White Bass. They were originally developed to provide large sportfish that have the fighting quality of striped bass and feed on open water prey fish. Hybrid bass are stocked in waters with large populations of forage fishes and do not appear to compete with sunfishes or
Hybrid bass are similar in appearance to both parents. They have two patches of teeth on their tongues like striped bass, but are deep-bodied like white bass. The dark stripes found on hybrid bass are usually broken into short dashes. The young grow well in the hatchery and are usually stocked in the fall as fingerlings. Hybrid bass are fast growers. In New York, hybrids reach eight inches in length in the first year and are double that by age three. Adult hybrid bass feed in open waters and primarily eat forage fish, such as alewife and gizzard shad.
Hybrid bass are popular sportfish. They are hard fighting and good eating. Anglers use the same fishing methods as those for white bass.
The hybrid white bass/striped bass does not occur naturally. However, many state and federal hatcheries have artificially produced this fish for stocking in public reservoirs. The hybrid stripes, as they are often called, have whetted the appetite of many sport fishermen and added some exciting variation to reservoir fishing. Also, because of their good taste, an aquaculture industry is developing with these fish. The hybrid is very similar in appearance to the striped bass. However, the hybrid has a deeper body. The best way for the angler to identify between the two is by observing the distinct lines along the side of the body. On the striped bass, these lines are seldom broken. On the hybrid, these lines are often broken and misaligned.
Main Characteristics of the True Bass Family Group
Opercles (their gill covers) with three spines; one main spine with a lesser spine above and below.
Lateral line complete and continuous.
Pelvic fin with one stout spine and five soft rays.
Three anal fin spines.
Seven branchiostegal rays (the cartilaginous gill supports).
Usually 24 or 25 vertebrae.
Identification of Yellow, White, Striped and Hybrid Striped Bass.
Does not have a tooth patch near the midline towards the back of the tongue.
Stripes distinct, broken above anal fin.
Dorsal fins joined.
Color - silvery yellow.
Has one tooth patch near the midline towards the back of the tongue.
Body deep, more than 1/3 length.
Stripes faint, only one extends to tail.
Has two, distinct tooth patches near the midline towards the back of the tongue.
Body slender, less than 1/3 length.
Stripes distinct, several extend to tail.
Hybrid Striped Bass
Has two, distinct tooth patches near the midline towards the back of the tongue.
Body deep, more than 1/3 length.
Stripes distinct, usually broken, several extend to tail.