Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
 
Photo of a striped bass - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo of a striped bass. Credit: USFWS

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Description

The striped bass (Morone saxatilis) is a favorite game fish in both marine and freshwater environments. They are green-gray dorsally, shading to silver below with 6 to 8 dark stripes on both sides. The females are larger than the males, commonly reaching up to 36 to 48 inches in length and weighing 30 to 50 pounds.

Striped Bass. Credit: USFWS
Striped Bass. Credit: USFWS

Life History

While striped bass are an anadromous species (migrating from the ocean to freshwater specifically to reproduce), they are considered to be amphidromous (moving into freshwater for purposes other than spawning, such as feeding) in the Connecticut River watershed. Most stripers spawn in rivers from southern New York to North Carolina. In the river, the female broadcasts hundreds of thousands of eggs, which are then fertilized by the male. After hatching, the young fish remain in the river for several years before migrating to the ocean.

Distribution

The striped bass is distributed along the east coast of North America from Nova Scotia to Florida. Spawning populations are concentrated along the mid-Atlantic region. In the Connecticut River basin, striped bass stay mostly in the mainstem, and are known to travel as far north as Bellows Falls Dam, Vermont (175 miles upstream).

Status

Striped bass populations decreased dramatically in the 1970's and 1980's due to over-fishing, pollution, and habitat loss. Strict fishing regulations have allowed striped bass numbers to rebound. The Connecticut River is experiencing a dramatic increase in the numbers and size of stripers, particularly below the Holyoke Dam. Striped bass predation on other migratory fish populations in the river, including juvenile Atlantic salmon, is thought to be significant.

Restoration Efforts

The striped bass is a Federal trust trust fish, meaning that the Federal government has some responsibility for its recovery. In 1979, Congress passed the Emergency Striped Bass Act. This act initiated research that, in turn, resulted in effective management recommendations. The Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission placed size and weight of restrictions on striped bass fishing. Some States imposed additional regulations, even closing striper fishing altogether. Hatchery rearing and a tagging program also helped to restore populations. Though populations are once again stable, and restrictions have been loosened, monitoring continues. Anglers play an important role in this process by reporting their catch to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Last updated: September 8, 2010
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