Striped Bass can be found schooling along the Atlantic North American coastline, from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to as far south and around the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana. The highest concentrations occur from Rhode Island, from May through late September, to Montauk Point – a key site in the migratory path from Chesapeake Bay. Late September through early November is a favorable season to find larger examples of this popular fish in regions near Martha’s Vineyard, Cuttyhunk, and Block Island. A successful spawning population also thrives in the Arkansas River, and other inland freshwater bodies, such as Lake Havasu, Lake Powell and Lake Mead; also in Lake Ouachita, Lake Norfork, and Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. They have been introduced as a predator to control smaller fish populations throughout the United States, and for sport and aquaculture in such faraway places as Ecuador, Latvia, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey.
Silvery, streamlined bodies are marked with seven or eight narrow, long, dark stripes which run from behind the gills to the base of the tail. Large mouths are capable of swallowing baitfish whole, head first. Striped Bass are believed to live up to 40 years, and thus reach quite impressive sizes. They usually average between 10-20 pounds, with females larger than males. The world record for Striped Bass is 78 pounds, 8 ounces, caught near Atlantic City, New Jersey.
These fish live mainly as adults schooling in numbers according to size, in the ocean surf. They migrate into estuaries and brackish or freshwater rivers and streams to spawn. They are particularly active among tidal and current flows, and in the wash of breaking waves. Atlantic Stripers winter in the ocean near North Carolina and Virginia. As temperatures rise they head inshore to large bays and cloudier waters. Stripers do very well in some of the worst-looking waters, including New York’s Hudson River, which has become a major source along the East Coast. Striped Bass are opportunistic feeders, dieting on various eels, soft clams, small mussels and smaller fish, like anchovies, flounder, and mackerel; even rooting around for sand fleas and smaller crabs.
The official state fish of Maryland and Rhode Island, Striped Bass is also New York’s official state saltwater representative. Introduction into natural freshwater bodies has proved successful, allowing a greater range of enjoyment for landlocked anglers. Though this most prized of all fish along the Eastern Seaboard suffered from severe decline in 1980s and 1990s, it has begun to make a fortuitous comeback – good news to all local and erstwhile anglers.