Game Fishing > Sea-Bass Family, Serranidae > Striped-Bass


Striped-BassThe specific name lineatus, or "striped," was bestowed by Bloch in 1792. North of the Delaware River it is universally called striped-bass, but in more southern waters it is known as rock or rockfish, from its habit of foraging on rocky shores in search of crustaceans and small fishes. From this vernacular name comes the generic name Roccus. It is found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Florida, but is most abundant from Buzzards Bay to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It has been successfully transplanted to the Pacific coast, where it is now common near San Francisco.

The form of the striped-bass varies considerably with age. Young specimens are rather slender and symmetrical in outline, the depth being about a fourth of the length. The depth increases with the weight of the fish, while the back becomes more arched, and the belly more pendulous. The head equals in length the depth of the body usually. The mouth is large, opening obliquely; the snout is rather sharp, and the lower jaw projects. The color is olivaceous, often bluish on the back, sides with silvery lustre, fading to white on the belly.

There are six to eight horizontal rows of dark spots, forming interrupted stripes, four or five running from head to caudal fin, with three shorter ones below; the fins are pale and usually unmarked. It is found within the range given during the entire year, though it frequents certain situations at different seasons. The largest fish resort to the rocky shores of the bays and indentations of the coast between the shores and outer reefs, those of smaller size frequent the estuaries and tideways, and still smaller ones seek the shallower and quieter waters.

It spawns in the spring, usually in May, in both fresh and brackish water. Large schools ascend rivers for long distances in the spring, more particularly those rivers resorted to by the shad, which they seem to follow, perhaps for the purpose of feeding on shad spawn, as they are said to do. Others follow the smelt up certain rivers farther north. A large female will deposit from a million to two million eggs, which are about one-seventh of an inch in diameter, are free, transparent, and semi-buoyant, and hatch in a few days. Owing to a large oil-drop in the front part of the yolk-sac, the young fry at first swim with the head toward the surface of the water, and not in the horizontal position usual with the fry of most fishes.

Its food consists of small fishes, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, squids, sandworms, and other marine invertebrates. It grows to a very large size, being frequently taken by anglers from thirty to sixty pounds, and in the nets of fishermen as heavy as one hundred pounds or more. In the city of Baltimore, in boyhood days, I often went to the fish markets on Saturdays to see and admire the various kinds of fishes. On one occasion there were several large rockfish being weighed on the old-time balance, consisting of a beam and two large, flat, wooden scales supported by chains. The largest fish did not weigh quite two fifty-six-pound weights.

A man then asked me how much I weighed, and I replied one hundred and three pounds. I was then placed on the scale instead of the weights, with the result that the fish outweighed me perhaps a pound or two. At all events it weighed between one hundred and three and one hundred and twelve pounds probably one hundred and five pounds. It was as long as an average man.

The striped-bass is a food-fish of fine quality, and the markets of the eastern cities are well supplied with it during summer and fall, and to a certain extent during the winter. It is very active from early spring until late in the fall, when it resorts to the back-waters and bayous of tidal-rivers for the winter. It is said by some to hibernate, but this is doubtful. The opinion is probably due to the fact that it is more sluggish and listless while in winter quarters, and refuses to respond to the wiles of the angler.

That the striped-bass is a game-fish of high degree goes without saying. It is rated by some enthusiastic anglers as being superior even to the salmon in game qualities. This opinion, however, is hardly correct when the two are compared weight for weight. In surf-fishing the first rush of a large fish, upon feeling the hook, is something to be remembered. It is probably longer and stronger than that of a salmon of equal weight, for the reason that while the latter fish is leaping from the water in its efforts to escape, the bass is making his furious dash for liberty beneath the surface, and exerting every ounce of his muscular fibre in the effort. But this immense strain cannot long be continued, and as he seldom breaks water like the salmon, and does not sulk, he resorts to strategy and finesse to free himself.

After making several desperate but ineffectual rushes to escape, he may endeavor to chafe or part the line against sharp rocks, or to foul it among the kelp or sea-weeds. Sometimes, but not often, he dives toward the angler to obtain slack line, which is a dangerous move if the reel does not respond quickly in taking up the loose line. When it is considered that all of these manoeuvres of a monster bass to free himself occur amidst the rolling and tumbling of the surf, or in the dashing of foam-crested combers, while the angler often has but a precarious footing on a slippery rock, and perhaps with a half gale of wind blowing, some idea may be formed of the skill and good judgment required to sub-due and land so valorous a fish. And under such conditions it is very natural for the angler to rank his noble quarry with the salmon.