Striped Bass

The name bass is usually used in reference to the large-mouth bass (Micropterus salmonides), which has the reputation for being the most popular game fish in North America. The striped bass (Morone saxatilis), while also being an extremely popular game fish, is classified under a different family (Fig. 1). Like groups of other fishes, the basses include a number of species that are quite different from each other. The striped bass is not hermaproditic as the sea bass is and it has only two spurs on the opercular bone instead of three. It, therefore, belongs to the Percich-thyidae family instead of the Serranidae to which the sea bass belong.

There is no predictable way in which this animal can be caught because of its sporadic feeding habits. The fisherman may be lucky with a particular lure or bait one day but be frustrated without a bite on the identical tackle and bait the next day. The animal is caught with a wide variety of sport fishing tackle. The most common tackle is the spinning rod with a lure that resembles the shad. The striped bass can also be caught on the fly rod with streamers or casting with bait. While it may be caught in open lakes and reservoirs, the most popular locations are at the outfalls of hydroelectric power plants or at the foot of dams. The elusive fish attracts the avid fisherman of inland waters. The present record is a 26.9 kg striper taken from the Colorado River in 1977. In addition to its large size, the popularity of the striped bass as a sport fish is due to the fact that it feeds actively in warm as well as cold temperatures. It also actively feeds in daylight as well as in the dark. This popularity, however, has added to the plight of dwindling populations of this species in Atlantic coastal waters. The effects of pollution and mechanical destruction of their free-floating eggs in dams in combination with the increasing catch by sport fishing has imposed great pressures on populations of this fish.

Although the striped bass is found on both coasts of North America, its native habitat is the Atlantic Coast. The populations in California and Oregon are decedents of a handful of animals that were transplanted from the East Coast into the San Francisco Bay area between 1879 and 1881. The construction of dams, which trapped migrating

Atlantic Striped Bass Life Cycle
Figure 1. Striped Bass (Morone saxa-tilis). Source: Copyright 1990 by B. Guild-Gillespie.

Figure 2. Atlantic cod (Gadus mor-hua). Source: Copyright 1990 by B. Guild-Gillespie.

populations of striped bass, demonstrated that these animals can adapt to a wholly freshwater existence. They can thrive without the saltwater phase of their life cycle. This, along with the development of successful rearing technology in hatcheries, led to the transplantation of populations to inland states throughout North America and to the establishment of successful fisheries in 17 inland states.

The striped bass is omnivorous. The juvenile fish feeds on planktonic organisms, such as copepods, and on insect larvae. After the animals are between 7.6 and 12.7 cm in length, they begin to capture and feed on smaller fishes. The adult will feed on a wider range of organisms including fish, worms, shrimps, and shellfish. The striped bass is an anadromamous fish. That means that, like the costal salmon species, it spends its adult life in salt water and migrates into freshwater streams to spawn. Unlike the salmon that migrate great distances in salt water, however, the bass's saltwater residence is confined to coastal waters.

The female produces about a million eggs, 1 mm in diameter, for every 4.5 kg of body weight. The females are always larger than the males and also live longer. The females can live up to 40 yr, reaching sizes of over 4.5 kg. All animals that are greater than 13.6 kg are almost exclusively females. With the increasing day length and warming temperatures of spring, the migration into freshwater streams occurs. Spawning generally takes place between 4-yr-old females and 2-yr-old males. The spawning takes place in open waters of the stream. The female broadcasts her eggs, which are fertilized by several males. Due to the oil content of the eggs, they are bouyant and float freely in the current of the river and later in the estuary. After a rather short incubation period of two or three days, the alevins hatch with yolk sacs. The alevins obtain nourishment from the yolk for the first four to six days, after which they resemble a small adult. Very much like the salmon young, the 5.1- to 7.6-cm young show vertical parr marks, which are eventually replaced by the characteristic horizontal stripes when they are about 6 in. in length. The juvenile then spends its growing and maturing period in the coastal marine environment until sexual maturity.

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