Striped Bass - General Characteristics

The Striped Bass (morone saxatilis) is a popular North American fish sought after by many anglers. They are a true bass and the largest member of the temperate bass family.

The Striped Bass goes by many other names as well, such as:

  • Striper
  • Rock
  • Rockfish
  • Striped Sea Bass
  • Striper Bass
  • Linesider
  • Pajama Fish
  • Squid Hound
  • Greenhead

Although Striped Bass are classified as an anadromous species (live in a marine environment, but migrate into fresh water to spawn), Striped Bass can live in totally fresh water without migrating to marine waters.

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. Striped Bass also have a forked tail.

Females reach significantly larger size than males. The term "bulls," originally coined to describe extremely large Striped Bass, has been more accurately changed to "cows" in more recent times.

Range and Distribution

The native habitat of Striped Bass is the East Coast. They are found in great 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. John's 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 Bay and Hudson River systems are the primary spawning grounds. Broadly, Hudson River and Striped Bass is good combination. 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.

Striped Bass inhabit the whole coast surf, inshore bars, reefs, tiderips, bays and estuaries. Striped Bass are particularly active in areas with tidal and current flows and in the wash of breaking waves.

Effects of Temperature

Just like humans, fish have a defined temperature range in which they feel most comfortable. But unlike humans, that range varies - often considerably - from species to species. Therefore, the angler who knows the exact comfort range of the fish has a definite edge. Since fish cannot add or remove layers of clothing to stay comfortable, their only option is to move to another area when they find the temperature too warm or too cool.

Fish are essentially cold-blooded creatures (although some tunas are slightly warm-blooded), which means they can't regulate their body temperature internally. This makes them extremely susceptible to rapid fluctuations in water temperature. Even subtle changes in temperature will affect the behavior of fish. In some cases, a degree or two can alter the feeding habits of a species without causing them to leave the area.

Striped Bass prefer water temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees F, but can tolerate a wide range of temperatures as evidenced by their native and introduced range.

Striped Bass Habitat

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. Striped Bass 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.


In the Spring, when river temperatures reach 55?F, Striped Bass begin to swim upstream. Spawning begins when water temperatures reach about 60?F-67?F. This occurs around mid-February in Florida, mid-March to late July in California, and late May through 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.

In order to survive, the 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.

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 (A 12 lb. female may produce about 850,000 eggs and a 55 lb. female about 4,200,000 eggs). Striped Bass will continue to consume food during the spawning cycle, stopping only long enough to release their eggs or milt.

Feeding Habits

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, alewives, silversides, smelts, minnows and eels. They also consume significant quantities of clams, mussels, sea worms, squid, crayfish, mayflies and crabs.

Land-locked freshwater Striped Bass 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, especially during the mid-Summer. 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.

Striped Bass Lures and Techniques on Spring Rivers

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