Striped Bass
Typical Size
12-23" (1-6 lbs.)
Decent Size
27-36" (10-20 lbs.)
Nice Size
40-50" (25-50 lbs.)
72.3" (78 lbs. 8 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

35 lbs.
Genus/Species Morone saxatilis
Common Names striper, schoolie, rockfish, linesider, squidhound, cow
Hot Spots Cape Cod Bay, Stellwagen Bank, North River
Best Time June - October
Best Baits herring, swimming plugs, surface poppers
Best Method Trolling swimming plugs or chunking with bait

Striped bass vary in color on their upper sides and back from a dark steel blue to a light olive brown green with gold overtones. This color quickly fades to a silvery white brassy sheen on their mid side and underbelly. The striped bass is easy recognizable by the seven to eight stripes that run laterally along the side of their body. It has heavy scales and a hard, bony head. It has textbook fish shape and finnage. The mouth is large but the teeth are small and harmless.

Striped Bass
The striped bass is the most sought after fish on the south shore.
Before I start this next section, I want those of you who are reading this to realize that I do have the species correct here. For those of you old-timers who may think I'm off, I researched this, and in 1967 scientists changed the genus classification for this fish from Roccus to Morone when they realized that this fish was directly related to the white perch and white bass, and not it's own unique genus. Now, back to Habits & Habitat: Striped bass are a migratory shoreline residing fish that live in temperatures ranging from 45 to 60 degrees. Voracious feeders, striped bass feed on a variety of fish, squid, crabs, and lobsters. They tend to feed much more in the morning and night, preferring low-light conditions. They tend to feed in schools and will follow the trail of food (usually fish) up into rivers and estuaries and up to 25 miles offshore, though rarely beyond that.

Depending upon water temperature and food supply striped bass may range from Canada to Florida, but are highly migratory in the most northern and southern parts of this range. The greatest concentration of striped bass occurs off the Maryland coast. On the south shore of Massachusetts, they first show in mid May and leave toward the end of October. Throughout the summer they also travel to and from offshore banks such as Stellwagen, to the inshore waters, along the beach front, and up into the North and South Rivers. These smaller migrations tend to coincide with the supply of baitfish in any given area and do not occur at any set time.

Spawning habits are said to occur in the rivers and estuaries of Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas during the month of March. From there, they supposedly move up to our waters. However, I'm not convinced that large stripers don't come up our rivers to spawn in June, as I've seen some rather hefty female stripers in the North River with little sign of bait around. Tagging studies show that striped bass return to spawn in the river they were born. All striped bass spawn in rivers and not the open sea. Once the juvenile striped bass are born they spend the rest of the summer in the river, attaining the size of a small white perch when they leave the river in the fall as water temperatures drop.

There have been numerous books written entirely devoted to fishing for striped bass. I couldn't even begin to match that in the space here. I will say that striped bass is without a doubt the most important, sought after fish on the south shore of Massachusetts. Fishing for striped bass is very enjoyable. They are an extremely hard fighting fish, very accessible from the shoreline, and terrific eating. There are numerous ways to fish for them and their highly aggressive nature often makes the method chosen simply a matter of preference. Basically, all methods fall into either bait or artificial lure presentations. The most difficult aspect of striped bass fishing is finding the fish. Once found, the rest is rather straightforward. Although you can fish for striped bass with a variety of baits, oily fish with a strong scent work best. Menhaden (also called "pogies") is probably the most popular, although mackerel, and herring work well also. Freshness is key. The fresher the bait, the better it works. A striped bass bait rig is the easiest way to rig up baits for stripers. Unlike fishing for bluefish, you should never use a wire leader as striped bass are far more line shy than bluefish and will spit out a bait if it feels the slightest resistance. Live-lining herring or eels is also very effective but a little more difficult for the casual angler.

The other method for taking striped bass is with artificial lures. The type of lure you use will depends upon where a particular school of fish is located. Bass feeding on the surface will eagerly accept small surface plugs and poppers retrieved rapidly. Fish suspended in the water column will take to trolled swimming plugs and tube teasers. Umbrella rigs can be highly effective in this cicumstance. Stripers hanging just off the bottom respond well to jigging medium size diamond jigs in the 6- to 8-ounce class.

Fishing for striped bass is more important recreationally than it is commercially. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, numbers of charter and party boats take passengers out on bass trips. And from the ports of Cape Cod, recreational fishing for striped bass is big business. A good-eating fish, the flesh of the striper is similar to pollock with a bit more flavor. However, care must be taken in the handling and the preparation of this fish or you may be dissapointed. It is best to dress the striper as soon as practical and keep it well chilled until it can be filleted. When filleting stripers make sure they are skinned, to remove as much as the blood line as possible. If you like the stronger flavor, leave the bloodline that runs along the lateral line. If you prefer a more delicate tasting fish, cut the fillet in half lengthwise and remove the bloodline that runs through the center of the fillet.