Description – The striper is the largest member of the temperate bass family. Body coloration is olive-green to blue-gray on the back with silvery to brassy sides and white on the belly. It is easily recognized by the seven or eight prominent black uninterrupted horizontal stripes along the sides. The stripes are often interrupted or broken and are usually absent on young fish of less than six inches. The striper is longer and sleeker and has a larger head than its close and similar looking relative, the white bass, which rarely exceeds three pounds.
Subspecies – There are no recognized subspecies.
Range – The striper on the Atlantic Coast has a range from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, N.Y. to the St. Johns River in northern Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from western Florida to Louisiana.
Habitat – All Florida populations of striped bass are river dwellers rather than anadromous (normally living in salt or brackish waters, but entering freshwater streams to spawn). The species has been widely introduced in numerous lakes, rivers and impoundments throughout the world. Stripers prefer relatively clear water with a good supply of open-water baitfish. Their preferred water temperature range is 65 to 70 degrees.
Spawning Habits – Spawns in March, April and May when water temperatures reach 60 to 68 degrees. Stripers are river spawners that broadcast millions of eggs in the water currents without affording any protection or parental care. During spawning, seven or eight smaller males surround a single, large, female and bump her to swifter currents at the water surface. At ovulation, ripe eggs are discharged and scattered in the water as males release sperm. Fertilized eggs must be carried by river currents until hatching (about 48 hours) to avoid suffocation. Fry and fingerlings spend most of their time in lower rivers and estuaries. Because striped bass eggs must remain suspended in a current until hatching, impoundments are unsuitable for natural reproduction. Freshwater populations have been maintained by stocking fingerlings, and, despite initial difficulties in hatchery procedures for obtaining females with freely flowing eggs, a modern technique of inducing ovulation with the use of a hormone has been successful.
Feeding Habits – Stripers are voracious feeders and consume any kind of small fish and a variety of invertebrates. Preferred foods for adults mainly consist of gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners and minnows. Younger fish prefer to feed on amphipods and mayflies. Very small stripers feed on zooplankton. Like other temperate bass, they move in schools, and all members of the school tend to feed at the same time. Heaviest feeding is in early morning and in evening, but they feed sporadically throughout the day, especially when skies are overcast. Feeding slows when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees but does not stop completely.
Age and Growth – Stripers are fast-growing and long-lived and have reached weights of over 40 pounds in Florida. Sexual maturity occurs at about two years of age for male stripers and at four years of age for females. They can reach a size of 10 to 12 inches the first year.
Sporting Quality – The striper tends to be an underrated trophy sport fish among many Florida anglers. However, for fishermen who have caught this species there is no disputing the striper is a superstar among freshwater fishes. Live shad and eels are excellent baits for catching big stripers. Other popular baits include white or yellow bucktail jigs, spoons, deep running crankbaits and a spinner with plastic worm rig. Popping plugs are best when stripers are schooling at the surface.
Information obtained from MyFWC