Striped Bass Habits
The majority of Striped Bass spawn in the Chesapeake Bay and outer lying estuaries, typically over the winter season. In the spring, Striped Bass begin a northern migration along the Atlantic coast line, following food sources as far north as the St. Lawrence River and into Canada. Common food sources include crab, lobster, bunker, menhaden, squid, and other bait fish of opportunity.
Mature striped bass primarily feed at nighttime, while younger stripers are rambunctious and eager to eat. This is because their vision has not yet fully adapted to ample night vision. Larger bass are so, because they lurk in the shadows and depths away from fishermen and other predatory creatures (such as seals, and dolphins). Striped Bass school together in order to appear as one large fish. The weaker striped bass will normally fall prey to larger predatory species.
Sensory Perception of a Striper
During the day, stripers have a wide range of color spectrum, including some degree of UV light. However, during darkness, mature stripers view the underwater world almost monochromatic, similar to an old black and white television. Stripers swim in a sea of smells, in parts-per-trillion, and are said to even smell their place of birth. This means they are incredibly sensitive to smells you introduce to their environment. This includes bait attractants and detouring smells such as bug spray or cologne.
Another factor to keep in mind is that sound travels faster under water than through air. Loud ambient noises, like motors, have the ability to hinder feeding habits. Introduced sounds, such as rattles that can mimic sounds of feeding crabs, can entice these bass to feed if done correctly.
“Fifty is nifty” is an old-timer saying which implies that when coastal waters reach 50° in the spring, stripers will become active. Waters in the mid to upper 70° range often cause bass to relocate to more comfortable temperatures where food exists.
Like an athlete, this species needs oxygen for maximum performance. Oxygenated waters mean active aquatic life which in turn, means a higher abundance of Striped Bass.
If there is one rule I’ve learned about fishing, which applies to all living things, it’s this:
No creature works harder than it has to for the things it requires.
Always remember these words, because it applies to all biodiversity – even humans! When you fish for striped bass, or any other species, periodically examining this statement will help you evaluate the environment, and how you can find and appeal to their senses.
For stripers, first find their food source. This will likely be in an area with oxygenated waters without extreme ripping currents (which would force them to exert too much energy to feed). When it’s cold, look for a water source providing warmth. When the local waters are getting too warm, look for cooler water (depth or cover structure).
During daylight hours, striped bass will almost always be found in areas near deeper waters. This provides the opportunity to feed and quickly escape into the depths if they feel threatened or simply need to digest. Estuaries have a tendency to offer seasonal homes to striped bass, as the conditions are more stable than open waters.
Jake from ANGLR presents a beautiful striped bass for the camera, while fishing with Brian McCarty on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. To view the video from this trip, click here.
Angler Tactics for Striped Bass Fishing
Common rod combinations for striped bass range from light weight 7 foot rods to heavy 12 foot surf rods. I recommend using a rod appropriate to throw your intended lure or bait, and upwards of 15-50 pound test line – depending on your optimism and retrieval skills. I am convinced that striped bass will eat nearly everything if presented correctly.
Don’t try to focus on lures of exact color, but rather evaluate whether you want your bait to blend in or stand out. Use a variety of lures that cover the water column from top water to bottom bouncers. This should include soft plastic baits, wood plugs, and plastic hollow-body lures. Don’t be afraid to incorporate products that appeal to sound, smell, and taste.
Striped bass fishing is regulated and varies by each state, so be sure to check local regulations. While harvesting striped bass is condoned, I am a strong proponent for catch & release. When releasing striped bass, they should be placed in the water facing toward the depths; and held at the tail. Gently rock them in a manner that allows water to flow through the mouth and gill plates to provide respiration. When a striper receives enough oxygen to be released in a healthy manner, it will let you know by flexing its body to produce a strong s-curve posture. You can let go and watch it swim away, only to grow healthier and stronger.
I can assure you that releasing a striped bass is an exhilarating experience not to be missed – equal to the feeling of catching it!
Alex of ANGLR displaying proper technique to release a striped bass.
I’ll leave you with this final thought… You can recycle your entire life, and if you are the only participant, it will not make one bit of difference. However, mature striped bass produce upwards of 10,000 eggs during their initial spawn. Larger stripers can produce millions of eggs per spawn. One angler does has the ability to effect the entire migratory population. Believe in your own conservation efforts and promote catch & release whenever possible.