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Striped bass

Morone saxatilis

Life Historystiped bass

  • Striped bass (rockfish) are migratory fish which spend most of their life in bays and the ocean, but travel up tidal freshwater rivers in the spring to spawn. This type of fish which migrates from saltwater into freshwater to spawn is called anadromous.
  • In addition to its annual spawning migration, striped bass move up and down the coast seasonally. A majority of the population spends the warmer months off the coast of New England and the cooler months near Virginia and the Carolinas.
  • Male striped bass reach sexual maturity between ages 2 and 3, while females become mature between ages 4 and 8.

Status

  • A rare success story in the world of fisheries, after 10 years of sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s and severe harvest restrictions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the striped bass population is now considered sustainable.
  • The 2005 coast-wide assessment found that striped bass were not over-fished and had peaked in 2002 with an unprecedented stock biomass of 60.6 million pounds of spawning females.
  • Though striped bass stocks are fairing well, there are concerns about the species' health. Mycobacteriosis, thought to affect over 60% of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay, is a bacterial infection that can cause lesions and lead to a decrease in body mass.

Restoration

  • In 1985, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service, state agencies, and universities, developed scientific studies of Striped bass as directed by Section 7 of the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act. A coast-wide striped bass tagging program was designed to estimate rates of exploitation, mortality rate, migration, and contribution of hatchery-reared fish to wild stocks. 
  • Maryland and Delaware closed their striped bass fisheries for a period of 5 years from 1985 to 1990. In addition, Virginia imposed a one year moratorium in 1989. Following these closures, the fishery remains highly regulated.
  • Between 1985 and 1993, more than 9 million tagged hatchery-reared striped bass fingerlings were released into the Chesapeake Bay system. Hatchery-reared striped bass were marked with an internal binary coded wire tag, which is a tiny micro-encoded piece of wire not visible to commercial and recreational fishermen, but detectable by researchers using specialized equipment.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages a central database which stores coast-wide tagging information. State and federal partners have tagged almost 500,000 striped bass using external anchor tags (spaghetti tags) since 1985. Over 85,000 tagged fish have been caught and reported. The information gathered in this database has been instrumental in the restoration of striped bass.

If you catch a tagged striped bass, please cut off the tag and record the date, location, and method of capture. Call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-448-8322 to report the information. Anyone reporting a tag will receive a certificate of participation and a reward. 

Last updated: January 30, 2013
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