Morone Saxatilis - Striped Bass

Morone Saxatilis Striped Bass

Striped BassMax. Recorded Length:
78 3/4 inches

Max. Recorded Length:
78 3/4 inches

Max. Recorded Weight:
125 Lbs    "commercial netting"

Max. recorded Age:
30 Years

Depth range:
Up to 100 feet

45 - 77 degrees -  preferred water temperature range is 65 to 70 degrees.


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.

Endogenous nutrition means that larvae derive nutrients and energy from the material contained in their yolk sacs.

After this stage, once larvae have well-developed mouths, they begin to feed on zooplankton . Juveniles feed on a variety of worms, small crustaceans, insects, and fishes.

In freshwater impoundment's, fish such as herring, alewife, and shads constitute the main diet of the adult striped bass.

Species Significance

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.

Historically, the commercial industry for striped bass has added millions to the state's economy on the east coast. Hatcheries exist throughout the nation. Striped bass are also used as a "biological control" to regulate gizzard shad and herring populations in large reservoirs.

In the 1950s, the striped bass population in South Carolina exploded, causing an increase in recreational fishing, especially in the Santee-Cooper Reservoir.

This population growth eventually caused a decrease in striped bass's feeding fish, the herring and shad, causing their populations to plummet.

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 it’s 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.

The optimum temperature for egg maturation is about 63 F. and the best hatches have been observed at 68 F.

Yolk-sac larvae hatch at about 0.12.

The mouth and divisions of the brain become evident after 2-4 days at 0.18 - 0.20", with teeth visible at about 0.13- 0.23".

The eye becomes mobile after 8 days at about 0.23-0.26".

Pectoral fins and caudal rays are visible at about 0.24".

Feeding begins at between 4 to 10 days.

The diet of adult striped bass consists mostly of soft-rayed fish.

Preferred species in fresh water are threadfin shad, gizzard shad and blueback herring.

scales are used to age striped bass.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 scientists at CQFE have undertaken additional research to determine the most accurate method for aging striped bass. From 1998 to the present they have collected sagittal otoliths and scales from over 1000 fish. Results show that age estimates of otoliths and scales up to age 9 are similar but thereafter scales consistently underestimate the age of striped bass.

Because striped bass can live to 30 years, the under estimate becomes worse as the fishery recovers and true mean age in the population increases.

The ramifications of relying on inaccurate scale ages, ones that underestimate the true age of striped bass.
In a recovering fishery, managers might not know the full extent of recovery.

There could possibly be more fish available for harvest. While this makes sense in terms of conservation, the full potential of the fishery is not being exploited. Conversely, when the fishery is being overfished, managers will not be able to identify one of the most important early warning signs, the loss of the oldest fish in the Stock.

Acknowledgements and References:

  • Husley Fish hatchery and the Biologist of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

  • Amendment #5 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass; Fisheries Management Report No. 24 of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission March 1995.

  • Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953, Fishes of the Gulf of Maine; United States Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. Pages 389-404.

  • Lyman and Woolner, 1962, The Complete Book of Striped Bass Fishing; A.S. Barnes and Company, New York

  • Mansueti, Romeo J., 1961, Age, growth, and movements of the striped bass taken in select fishing gear in Maryland. Chesapeake Science, Volume 2, March-June, 1961- Number 1-2.

  • Nicholson and Young. 1979, Striped Bass Fighting Linesider, Marine Resources of the Atlantic Coast; Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Washington D.C.

  • Smith and Wells, 1977, Biological and Fisheries Data on striped bass, Morone saxatilis
    National Marine Fisheries Service, Highlands. NJ; Technical Series Report No. 4.

  • Deuel, D., D. McDaniel, S. Taub. 1989. Atlantic coastal striped bass: Road to recovery. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Washington, D.C.

  • Fay, C.W., R.J. Neves, and G.B. Pardue. 1983. Species profiles: Life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (Mid-Atlantic)--Striped Bass. U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report FWS/OBS-82/11.8. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Report TR EL-82-4. Washington, DC.

  • Fuller, J.C., Jr. 1984. South Carolina's striped bass story. South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Columbia, SC.

  • Hardy, J.D., Jr. 1978. Development of fishes of the mid-Atlantic Bight: an atlas of egg, larval, and juvenile stages. Volume 3: Aphredoderidae through Rachycentridae. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Programs. FWS/OBS-78/12. Ft. Collins, CO.

  • Jenkins, R.E. and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

  • Williams, H.M. 1975. Characteristics for distinguishing white bass, striped bass and their hybrid (striped bass X white bass). South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Abbeville, SC.

  • Roccus saxatilis (Walbaum) 1792
    [Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 1132, as Roccus lineatus (Bloch).

  • The Texas Freshwater Fishing web site at

  • 1997, The Diversity of Fishes, Blackwell Science. Malden, Mass.

  • The National Marine Fisheries Service web site at

  • The Combat Fishing web site at

  • The Fair Harbor web site at

  • ODU Working paper on Otolith/Scale Age Comparisons for Striped bass.

  • Helfman, G.S., Collette, B.B., & Facey, D.E. 1997, The Diversity of Fishes, Blackwell Science. Malden, Mass.

  • Bond, C.E. 1979, Biology of Fishes (2>nd Ed.) Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia.

  • Evans, D.H. 1997, The Physiology of Fishes (2nd Ed.) CRC Press, New York.

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