Welaka National Fish Hatchery
Southeast Region

 

 

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Gulf Coast Striped Bass

Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

The restoration of interjurisdictional fish species is a priority identified by the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Restoration of the Gulf Coast Striped Bass activities are guided by an interstate Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) prepared by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) in 1986 and amended in 1992. The FWS operates fish hatcheries and fisheries resource field stations vital to an overall partnership program on Gulf Coast Striped Bass. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint(ACF) river system is a major component in the restoration of this species.

A Cooperative Agreement was signed in 1987 between Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the Service to establish by mutual consensus, the restoration of the striped bass in the (ACF) river system. It is believed that the only naturally-occurring population of native Gulf striped bass exists in the ACF system.

The Service, under the authority of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries compact and Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Agreement, is responsible for cooperative programs to restore anadromous striped bass and priority interjurisdictional fish. Subsequently, cooperation among the states and the federal agencies has continued to grow, culminating in the development of a state-federal strategic plan for restoration of anadromous fish resources, primarily striped bass, in the Gulf of Mexico. Implementation of this strategic plan will significantly increase the quality and quantity of data and information regarding striped bass, thus improving restoration and management efforts.

 


The goal of the FMP is to:

Restore and maintain striped bass throughout the Gulf of Mexico region, and to establish self-sustaining populations of striped bass in at least ten coastal river systems. The management area for this interstate FMP is the state jurisdictional waters of the Gulf of Mexico region, including the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (west coast only).

 


Fun Facts

 


Scientific Name

Morone saxatilis

Common Names

Rock, Rockfish, Striper.

Status

The striped bass is a popular game fish and is valued by sport and commercial fishermen alike. The Striper is a species of special concern and extensive conservation and restoration initiatives have been developed to restore the species to self-sustaining populations through out its historical range.

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Description

Striped bass have an elongate body which is moderately compressed. Dorsally their color ranges from light green to olive, or steel blue, to brown or black. Laterally the fish are silver with 7-8 dark continuous stripes running longitudinally.

Diet

Juveniles (1" - 2") utilize zooplankton and gradually switch to fish species preferring soft rayed fish such as shad. They are opportunists and tend to prey on schooling species as well as eels, needlefish and other spiny rayed fish.

Historical Range

Striped bass were once common in the rivers and estuarine environment of the northern Gulf coast. They were found from Texas to the Suwannee river, Florida, and inland to St. Louis, Missouri on the Mississippi River. Historical reports indicate the fish were landed commercially from the late 1800's through the early 1960's. Except for a remnant population of Gulf race striped bass in the Apalachicola River system in northwest Florida and infrequent catch reports in a few other river systems, they are no longer common throughout their range.

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Life History

Gulf race striped bass are considered anadromous but for the most part are riverine in nature. When water temperatures start to rise (mid-February in Florida) mature males begin spawning runs up freshwater rivers and streams. The females follow and when they arrive at selected areas, usually spawn with several males. Semi-buoyant eggs are deposited directly into the water, as is the sperm. The eggs, if fertilized, hatch after 36-42 hours under normal conditions. This is the most crucial period for young stripers. The water current must be strong enough, and the river distance long enough to keep the eggs and young from settling to the river bottom, where silt would smother them. This period lasts several days and the correct amount of clean, flowing water is essential.

After the spring spawning run, the fish disperse downstream seeking cool water springs where they spend the hot summer months.

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Threats to Survival

The reasons for the decline of native striped bass along the northern Gulf coast are speculative. Environmental alterations in the form of water control structures and extensive channelization may have prevented successful reproduction. Dams not only prohibit migration upstream eliminating prime spawning habitat, but also reduce access to cool water springs which are crucial for large striped bass to survive the hot summer months. Industrial and agricultural pollution have also been implicated as probable causes of the drastic decline of striped bass.

Restoration Stocking

One method to insure greater numbers of striped bass is to produce the fish in hatcheries. Millions of various sized fish are currently being stocked along the Gulf coast by the Fish and Wildlife Service and in cooperation with State fish and wildlife agencies. Hatchery raised fish are released in established areas that provide the young stripers with the best possible chance of survival. Some are tagged, enabling biologists to evaluate the success of the stocking programs.

Artificial propagation is conducted by Welaka National Fish Hatchery, (NFH), Warm Springs Regional Fisheries Center, and the state of Florida's Blackwater Fisheries Research and Developmental Center. Yolk sac fish (fry), and Phase I fish (1" - 3") are shipped to various federal and state hatcheries to be raised and stocked according to the striped bass management plan.

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Additional Information

Please direct questions and comments, via E-mail or telephone, to:

Gail Carmody
Project Leader
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1612 June Avenue
Panama City, FL 32405
Gail_Carmody@fws.gov
303-275-2320

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Last updated: September 16, 2009