The Striped bass, Morone saxatilis, is also known as a striper, rock, and rock bass.
The striped bass, one of the most avidly pursued of all coastal sport fish, is native to most of the East Coast, ranging from the lower St. Lawrence River in Canada to Northern Florida, and along portions of the Gulf of Mexico.
The unique angling qualities of this trophy species and its adaptability to fresh water environments have led to a major North American range expansion within the last 100 years. A valuable fishery has been created on the West Coast and inland fisheries have been developed in 31 states by stocking the striped bass into lakes and reservoirs.
The striped bass has a large mouth, with jaws extending backward to below the eye. It has two prominent spines on the gill covers. The first (most anterior) of its two well-developed and separated dorsal fins possesses a series of sharp, stiffened spines. The anal fin, with its three sharp spines, is about as long as the posterior dorsal fin.
The striper’s upper body is blueish to dark olive, and its sides and belly are silvery. Seven or eight narrow stripes extending lengthwise from the back of the head to the base of the tail form the most easily recognized characteristic of this species.
Striped bass can live up to 40 years and can reach weights greater than 100 pounds, although individuals larger than 50 pounds are rare. The all-tackle angling record fish, taken in New Jersey in 1972, weighed 78 ½ pounds and measured 72 inches long. The Massachusetts record of 73 pounds has been equaled on three occasions, the most recent of which was at Nauset Beach in 1981.
Striped bass are rarely found more than several miles from the shoreline. Anglers usually catch stripers in river mouths, in small, shallow bays and estuaries, and along rocky shorelines and sandy beaches. The striped bass is a schooling species, moving about in small groups during the first two years of life, and thereafter feeding and migrating in large schools. Only females exceeding 30 pounds show any tendency to be solitary.
Many states have stocked stripers in their lakes with great success. They thrive in cooler lakes or ones with deeper channels where the fish can seek cooler water. Some states have cross bred Stripers with the White Bass to produce a hybrid bass.
Schools of striped bass less than three years of age (sometimes called “schoolies” by anglers) occasionally travel from upstream into coastal rivers. Although adult striped bass move into rivers to reproduce, fish less than three years old probably make such journeys to take advantage of a river’s abundant food resources.
Striped bass eat a variety of foods, including fish such as alewives, flounder, sea herring, menhaden, mummichogs, sand lance, silver hake, tomcod, smelt, silversides, and eels, as well as lobsters, crabs, soft clams, small mussels, annelids (sea worms), and squid.
They feed most actively at dusk to dawn, although some feeding occurs throughout the day. During midsummer they tend to become more nocturnal. Stripers are particularly active with tidal and current flows and in the wash of breaking waves along the shore, where, fish, crabs, and clams become easy prey as they are tossed about in turbulent water.
Anglers target Striped Bass with a variety of live baits with eels being a favorite. Mojo’s, bucktails similar lures are used as well. Striped bass make excellent table fare with a semi-firm white meat with a delicate taste. In this area Stripers can be found in the Cape Fear River around downtown Wilmington and north in the NE Cape Fear River.