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Striped Bass have thick, stout bodies with 7 to 8 horizontal stripes on each side. The stripes, which are dark in color, extend from the gills to the tail. Dorsally, their coloring ranges from light green to olive, steel blue, black, or brown. While their sides are a silvery grey color and their bellies white. Striped Bass have two distinct dorsal fins: the first consists of 8 to 10 spines and the second consists of 10 to 13 soft rays. The caudal fin is wide and slightly forked. The mouth of a Striped Bass is large with small teeth and its lower jaw slightly juts out. The Striped Bass is the largest of all sea bass growing up to 5 feet long. However, the average fish ranges between 20 and 30 inches. The females typically grow larger than the males, as such, fish over 30 inches are most likely females.
The striped bass have a geographic range from the St. Lawrence River to the Gulf of Mexico. As anadromous fish, they migrate between fresh and saltwater. Spawning in freshwater, some Striped Bass will swim as far as 100 miles upriver (that’s equivalent to a fish entering the Connecticut River from Long Island Sound and traveling all the way up to Greenfield, MA). There are also some landlocked populations that spend their whole lives in freshwater. Once hatched, larvae drift downstream to coastal estuaries or river deltas where they mature into juveniles. Juveniles spend their first 2 to 4 years of life in estuaries before they migrate out to the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Adults, which can live up to 30 years, can be found in open water along rocky shores, sandy beaches, and rivers.
Striped Bass migrate seasonally and are most commonly seen in New England from early April to late fall. However, some are known to overwinter in New England waters. Except for the very large fish, most Striped Bass travel in schools. Juveniles spend their first two years of life swimming around in small groups as “schoolies”. Because females grow so large, they are referred to as “cows”. Striped Bass feed on fish, such as river herring, Atlantic Menhaden, flounder, and Atlantic Silversides. They also eat invertebrates, including lobster, crabs, clams, squid, and worms. Fished commercially and recreationally, Striped Bass are highly sought-after fish. Historically, their population in New England has fluctuated. Periods of overfishing led to a sharp decline, however a moratorium in 1986 led to strict management measures that have helped the population rebuild.