Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)

December 19, 2010

The striped bass is the largest member of the sea bass family. Saxatilis is Latin for “dwelling among rocks.” The striped bass has a dorsal fin that is clearly separated into spiny and soft-rayed portion. Striped bass are silvery, shading to olive-green on the back and white on the belly, with seven or eight horizontal stripes on each side of the body. They also have two distinct tooth patches on the back of the tongue, whereas another species like white bass has one tooth patch. Striped bass have two sharp points on each gill cover, while white bass have one. The striped bass can live in both freshwater and saltwater environments. In coastal populations, individuals may travel upstream as much as 100 miles inland to spawn. There are land-locked populations that complete their entire life cycle in freshwater. These generally ascend tributaries of the lakes or reservoirs where they spend their lives. Spawning begins in the spring when water temperatures approach 60 degrees. Running water is necessary to keep eggs in motion until hatching. In general, at least 50 miles of stream for the eggs to float in is required for successful hatches. Striped bass may reach a size of 10 to 12 inches during the first year. Males are generally mature in two years, and females in three to four. Adults feed predominantly on members of the herring family such as gizzard shad and threadfin shad. The striped bass is anadromous, native to a variety of habitats including shores, bays, and estuaries.
The striped bass has gone through cycles of being abundant and scarce in the Hudson. Environmentalists have put a lot of effort into protecting the this species. They have been used to judge the state of the river. For example, if the striped bass population is low, surveyors know that the river has high levels of harmful toxins. The Westway plan, a plan to put the Westside Highway underground, was spoiled due to the striped bass. The developers failed to include the effects the project would have on the striped bass in the Hudson and they were forced to do another study. The striped bass mating season was a long time away, so developers canceled the project.

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