Striped Bass are considered anadromous (uh-nad'- droh-muss) fish. Like the
American Shad, Alewife and Blueback Herring, stripers travel great distances
from salt water each Spring into fresh water estuaries to spawn, then return to
salt water where they spend most of the year. The American Eel on the other
hand, is considered catadromous (kuh - tad' - droh - muss), spending most of
the year in fresh water, then travelling out to salt water to spawn (Sargasso
Sea). Striped bass usually spend the first 2 -3 years of life in fresh water near
where they were born. They begin to migrate out to salt water in their third or
fourth year to spend most of the year up and down the Atlantic coastline, (or
Pacific) only to return to fresh water to spawn each Spring. Females reach full
spawning maturity at 4 - 6 years with males reaching maturity at 2 -3 years old.
Each Spring they instinctively return to fresh water estuaries (usually finding
the one in which it was born with their great sense of smell) and wait until the
water warms to approximately 60-64 degrees F. When the conditions are just
right, (usually mild, overcast days) the females begin rolling in the deeper
current of the spawning area. This prompts the males to begin bumping the
female's bellies with their snouts, helping to force the roe sacks out. The males
then permeate the water with their milt (sperm) leaving the eggs to fertilize and
drift for 2 - 3 days.
The eggs contain a yolk sack that provides nutrition for the unhatched embryo.
When the fry begin to swim, they feed on zooplankton. As they grow, they begin
to feed on insects and larvae.
It is essential for the female striper to drop her roe sack in tidal (moving) water
that keeps the eggs suspended and adrift. The eggs have a density that allows
them to float, which keeps them from dropping to the bottom and becoming
covered in silt, rendering them useless.
Very few of the stripers that have been introduced to land-locked bodies of
water (lakes, reservoirs, impoundments) ever spawn, due to the lack of moving
water and proper conditions. Fish here are usually stocked annually.
Unlike salmon, stripers eat right up to the spawn and then immediately after,
with their flesh remaining firm and delicious throughout this period.
Jeuvenile Striped Bass
It is estimated that a 12 lb. female striper will purge 850,000 eggs per spawn.
Stripers over 40 lbs. can lay upwards of 3.5 million eggs.
Roe sack from a