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Striped Bass

The striped bass, Morone saxatilis - also known in the Chesapeake Bay as striper, rockfish, linesider, roller, squidhound and greenhead-has been one of the most sought-after commercial and recreational finfish in the Bay since colonial times.

The striper's habitat reaches from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to the St. John's River in Florida; and from Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana to the open waters of the Atlantic.

Striped bass variously appear to be light green, olive, steel blue, brown or black. They earn their name from the seven or eight continuous stripes that mark their silvery sides, extending from the gills to the tail. Their undersides are usually white or silver, with a brassy iridescence.
Mature stripers are known for their size (they've even been known to reach 100 pounds and nearly five feet in length) and fighting ability.
Life Cycle

Spawning

Life for the striped bass begins in the estuary; at one time the Chesapeake Bay was the spawning ground for nearly 90 percent of the Atlantic population.
The migratory behavior of coastal striped bass is more complex than that of many other anadromous fish, which spend most of their adult lives in the ocean but migrate up rivers and streams to spawn. Their seasonal movements depend on their age, sex, degree of maturity and the river in which they were born.
In late winter mature striped bass begin to move from the ocean into tidal freshwater to spawn. Spawning is triggered by an increase in water temperature and generally occurs in April, May and early June in the Chesapeake Bay.
Female striped bass may spawn as early as age 4, but a year class may not reach complete sexual maturity until age 8 or older. By contrast, most male stripers reach sexual maturity at age 2 or 3.
Shortly after spawning, mature fish return to the coast. Most spend summer and early fall months in middle New England near-shore waters. In late fall and early winter they migrate south off the North Carolina and Virginia capes.
Incubation, Hatching and Larval Stages

Striped bass eggs hatch 29 to 80 hours after fertilization, depending on the water temperature. Larvae at this point have an average size of 3.1 mm.
The mouth forms in two to four days, and the eyes are unpigmented.
The larvae are nourished by a large yolk mass. Eggs produced by female stripers weighing 10 pounds or more contain greater amounts of yolk and oil reserve and have a greater probability of hatching.
The larvae's survival depends primarily upon events during the first three weeks of life.
Typically striped bass larvae begin feeding about five days after hatching, depending on water temperature.
Eggs and newly hatched larvae require sufficient turbulence to remain suspended in the water column; otherwise, they will settle to the bottom and be smothered.
As the larvae grow, they can be found at progressively deeper levels of the water column.
Young stripers tend to move downstream to areas of higher salinity. Some less than 2 years old migrate along the Atlantic Coast, but many do not migrate until age 3, and most remain in the river system in which they were spawned.

Habitat

Estuaries are vital to the life cycle of striped bass, which use them as spawning grounds and nurseries.
Mature stripers are found in and around inshore habitats as well, including areas off sandy beaches and along rocky shorelines, in shallow water or deep trenches, and in rivers and the open Bay.
Any significant habitat alterations have the potential to disrupt the life cycle of the striped bass.
Food

Striped bass larvae feed primarily on copepods (crustaceans) in both larval and mature stages, and cladocerans (water fleas).
Juvenile stripers eat insect larvae, larval fish, mysids (shrimplike crustaceans) and amphipods (tiny scavenging crustaceans that lack a carapace and have laterally flattened bodies).
Adults are piscivorous, or fish-eaters. In summer and fall, stripers consume Bay anchovy and Atlantic menhaden; in winter they eat larval and juvenile spot and Atlantic croaker ; and in spring they feed on white perch , alewives and blueback herring.
The Fishery

The principle gear used in the Chesapeake Bay commercial striped bass fishery included pound nets, haul seines, and drift, anchor and stake gillnets.

The recent status of the striped bass fishery in the Chesapeake Bay tells a relative success story, after more than 10 years of steep decline. Commercial landings in Maryland and Virginia portions of the Bay generally increased from the early 1930s, culminating in a record commercial catch in 1973 of 14.7 million pounds. Thereafter the striper harvest fell steadily to 1.7 million pounds by 1983. Sport fishermen reported a similar pattern. The decline translated into a loss of about 7,000 jobs and $220 million in 1980.
In response to this dramatic downturn, Congress passed the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act in 1984. Maryland and Delaware imposed fishing moratoria from 1985 to 1989, and Virginia imposed a one-year moratorium in 1989. Although the fishery reopened in 1990 following three successful spawning years, it remains tightly restricted.
Reasons for Striped Bass Decline

The reasons for the sharp decline in the striped bass harvest during the 1970s and 1980s are complex. Scientists determined that overfishing caused the striped bass population to become more susceptible to natural stresses and pollution.
In particular, fluctuations in water temperature in spawning grounds cause significant natural stress. But this is not the only stressor.
Low dissolved oxygen (DO) in the deeper water of the upper Chesapeake Bay and in other areas has eliminated much of the summer habitat of adult and juvenile striped bass.
Acidity and contaminants in spawning habitats may have influenced the mortality of striped bass larvae in the Choptank, Nanticoke and Potomac rivers. Research indicates that highly acidic rain reacts with aluminum in the soil, causing it to dissolve in the water, which is lethal to newly hatched stripers.
Salinity, turbidity, light, temperature and pH also affect the survival of striped bass in their habitat.
Larval striped bass are also susceptible to toxic pollutants such as arsenic, copper, cadmium, aluminum and Malathion, a commonly used pesticide.
Other hypotheses for the decline of striped bass in the Bay include starvation of larvae, unfavorable climatic events, changes in water use practices, competition with other species for food and space, and poor water quality due to agricultural runoff and sewage treatment practices.
Despite these threats, the striped bass stocks continue gradually to increase in the Bay. Because the Bay remains the main spawning and nursery area for 70 percent to 90 percent of the Atlantic stock, restoration efforts remain critically important to the future of the striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.


To book your trip aboard Light Tackle Charters call Captain Walt at (410) 957-1664 or email him from this site! Remember, your date is not "booked" until a deposit has been recieved.

Light Tackle Charters
2630 Cambrook Drive
Pocomoke City, MD 21851

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You may bring your own fly, spinning, casting or trolling outfits. I recommend different outfits of different size & weights dependent upon the time of year and the species we'll be stalking. Just talk with me (via phone or e-mail) prior to the trip and I'll be happy to make recommendations...