Morone Saxatilis Striped Bass
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Morone Saxatilis (Striped Bass) are members of the family Percichthyidae, the temperate basses. They are elongated with 7-8 dark stripes extending horizontally, a dark olive to steel blue back and silver underside with a brassy sheen. The two dorsal fins are separated by a gap, and two spines are present on the edge of the opercle. The caudal fin, or tail, of striped bass is clearly forked. Males reach a maximum length 45 in, whereas females grow to about 72 in. Maximum recorded weight is about 125 lbs. The Striped Bass is the largest member of the sea bass family, often called "temperate" or "true" bass to distinguish it from species such as largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass which are actually members of the sunfish family Centrarchidae.
Habitat and Biology of the Striped Bass
Striped Bass Inhabits coastal waters and are commonly found in bays but may enter rivers in the spring to spawn . Some populations are landlocked. Larvae feed on zooplankton; juveniles take in small shrimps and other crustaceans, annelid worms, and insects; adults feed on a wide variety of fishes and invertebrates, mainly crustaceans . Feeding ceases shortly before spawning .
Stripers are native to the Atlantic coast, from the St. Lawrence River, Canada, to the St. John's River, Florida. On the Gulf coast, it is distributed from the Suwannee River, Florida, to eastern Texas. Because striped bass can live in fresh water, they have been stocked in many inland reservoirs. However, Stripers do not tend to have successful spawns in most inland reservoirs.
Striped Bass spawning migrations typically begin in March, when water temperatures exceed 58o F, and continue through early summer, with males arriving at spawning grounds before females. Fish move upstream in the body of water they are located even if natural re-production is not recorded in the body of water the stripers inhabit they will still make the spawning run.
Female stripers releases her eggs to be fertilized by any pursuing males. The semi-buoyant eggs then need to drift in currents for several days until they hatch. Spawning success is often sporadic because of the limited range of environmental conditions required for eggs to hatch and larvae to grow.
Sexual maturity occurs around about 28 in. in length. Eggs are pelagic, and larvae hatch in approximately 2-3 days. Larvae depend on endogenous nutrition for the
first 5-10 days.
Striped Bass have historically been America's most important recreational and commercial fish. Sportfishing attracts many fishermen to lakes,reservoirs and rivers
across our nation.
In the 1950s, the striped bass population in South Carolina exploded, causing an increase in recreational fishing, especially in the Santee-Cooper Reservoir.
Consequently, the striped bass population in the Santee-Cooper also began to decline due to starvation. This "boom-bust" cycle is common to many fish species.
A significant decline of striped bass throughout the East Coast began in the late 1970s. The U.S. Congress responded to this in 1979 by amending the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act to include an emergency striped bass study.
In 1981, the ASMFC published an Interstate Fisheries Management Plan for Striped Bass. In 1980 the Striped Bass Study was implemented to identify possible causes of the decline of striped bass and to outline an action plan and research program to address these causes. Possible causes of fish decline include over-harvesting, habitat deterioration, contaminants, and industrial development.
In 1984 the U.S. Congress passed the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, requiring a federal moratorium on striped bass fishing in those states which have not adopted the recommended management measures of the ASFMC Plan or are not satisfactorily enforcing these measures.
Striped bass are the largest species of the sea bass family, Moronidae, order Perciformes, often called "temperate" or "true" bass to distinguish them from species such as largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass which are actually members of the sunfish family, Centrarchidae.
Of their Latin name, Morone is of unknown derivation and saxatilis means "dwelling among rocks". Striped bass are an important species of fish for recreational. They are one of the most sought after fish by anglers because they fight the line and are delicious.
Historically Striped Bass have been a vital resource since colonial times. Striped bass as well as codfish were among the first resources protected by conservation measures.
In 1639, the Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law prohibiting the sale of either fish to be used as fertilizer. In 1670, an act of the Plymouth Colony required that all income from striped bass, mackerel, and herring be used for a free school. The school financed from these fisheries off of Cape Cod was the first public school in the thirteen colonies.
Today the striped bass holds just as important role as it did then and has been given a place of honor on the Great Seal of Maryland.
The striped bass (also known as striper, linesider, bass, rockfish, rock and in French, bar raye) is native to most of the East Coast, ranging from the Lower St. Lawrence in Canada to northern Florida, and along portions of the Gulf of Mexico.
The unique angling qualities of this trophy fish and its adaptability to freshwater 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.
Stripers are anadromous (ascending rivers from the sea for breeding).
Stripers tend to school by size rather than age. Only females exceeding 30 pounds show any tendency to be solitary.
Most females reach maturity at 3-4 years, some as late as 8 years, and at total lengths of about 17 inches; males mature at 2 years and 7 - 10 inches total length; the larval stage lasts from 35-50 days; larvae begin active feeding at about 8 days (6-7 days); juvenile stage lasts from 35-50 days to maturity.
Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach 60-70�F. The semi-buoyant eggs are released in flowing water and fertilized by several males in a thrashing event known as a "fight".
As many as 3,000,000 eggs may be released by one female. Eggs require a flow adequate to prevent their settling to the bottom during the incubation period.
Embryos "kick" after about 40 hours, and hatch after 48 to 50 hours. During their first few days of life the larval fish are sustained by a yolk material while they continue to develop until they can feed on zooplankton. The survival and maturation of the eggs is dependent on both salinity and temperature.
The best survival rates occur with a salinity of 9-9.5 parts per thousand. While eggs have been found at temperatures between 46.5 and 77
F., those at the extremes would
probably not survive.
Scales have traditionally been used to age striped bass, Morone saxatilis, and currently the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) requires states to use only scales to age striped bass. To age with scales, scientists count circuli. Circuli are growth rings around the scale.
Retardation of growth during the fall and winter causes the spacing between the circulii to decrease, leaving a dark bandon the scale called an annulus. However, many life stresses, spawning, injury, pollution, parasitism, etc. may also leave a mark.
In the past decade there have been several research studies that compared alternative structures for use in age determination for striped bass. These studies have consistently found that otoliths were superior to scales inaccurate measurement of fish age, with scales consistently under estimating the age of larger and older fish.
Virginia leads all other states by collecting both scales and otoliths to yield greater
accuracy in age estimation.
The ramifications of relying on inaccurate scale ages, ones that underestimate the true
age of striped bass.
Acknowledgements and References:
Glossary of Fish Terms