Striped Bass

Morone saxatilis

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illustration of a striped bass, side view
Primarily a marine species native to the Atlantic Coast of North America, the striped bass has been successfully stocked into numerous reservoirs throughout the United States.
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.
Family

Moronidae (temperate basses) in the order Perciformes (perch-like fishes)

Description

The striped bass is a silvery, elongated fish with prominent dark, horizontal stripes along the sides. The stripes are typically not offset or broken, and typically 3–5 extend from behind the head to the base of the tail. The soft and spiny dorsal fins are separate. The gill cover has a very sharp gill plate. The teeth on the upper surface of the tongue are usually in two parallel patches.

Similar species: Hybrids between the striped bass and white bass are stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation in many impoundments around the state. These fish share characteristics of both parent species. They superficially resemble white bass, but they have 2 patches of teeth on the tongue very close together, or else a single distinct tooth patch. Hybrids also achieve a larger size than white bass, exceeding a weight of 5 pounds.

Key Identifiers

 

  • Teeth on back of tongue in two parallel patches
  • Horizontal stripes
  • Body depth (dorsal to ventral, or back to belly) is comparatively narrow, less than 1/3 the total body length (white bass and hybrid bass are deeper-bodied)
  • Commonly reaches 20 pounds
Size

Total length: 26–40 inches; weight: 5–20 pounds. Record striped bass over 60 pounds have been caught in our state.

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Image of hybrid striped bass or "wiper"
Hybrid Striped Bass (Wiper)
"Wipers" are hybrids between striped bass and white bass. They are stocked in many impoundments around the state.

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State-Record Striped Bass
State-Record Striped Bass
Lawrence Dillman of Rockaway Beach caught this 65-pound, 10-ounce state-record striped bass at Bull Shoals Lake on May 21, 2015.

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James Cunningham with State Record Striped Bass
State Record Striped Bass
Habitat and conservation

Primarily a marine species native to the Atlantic Coast of North America, the striped bass has been successfully stocked into numerous reservoirs throughout the United States. The species prefers cool, well-oxygenated water and cannot tolerate poor water quality.

During the fall to spring months, striped bass can be found throughout a reservoir. However, during summer months the fish congregates in the cool, deep water near the thermocline, the transition between surface and deep water.

Foods

Numerous studies throughout the United States reveal shad (gizzard and threadfin) and other fish species are the striped bass’s predominant foods. Striped bass adults will also occasionally eat crayfish and other prey.

image of Striped Bass distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Lake of the Ozarks, Norfork Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, and occasionally the Osage, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers.

Status

Uncommon game species.

The temperate bass family (Moronidae) to which this species belongs comprises some 6 to 8 species (depending on which authority is consulted) that used to be included in the temperate perch (or sea bass, or "true bass") family (Percichthyidae). Missouri's other basses (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted), grouped with the sunfishes, are in a different family.

Life cycle

Adults spawn in the spring, usually migrating to the flowing waters of tributary streams. Due to specific spawning requirements, very few self-sustaining populations are found in reservoirs and artificial stocking supports most fisheries. These fish are fast growing, often reaching 24 inches by their fourth year of life. The species is generally found in open water and in small to large, continuously moving schools. It is believed the fish can live up to 30 years.

Human connections

A large number of anglers prefer striped bass because of its large growth potential and powerful fighting qualities. Many anglers also like the flavorful flesh.

Ecosystem connections

Due their large size potential, striped bass are capable of preying on gizzard shad, which can grow too large to be eaten by white bass and other predatory fish, and keeping their populations in check.