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Nature's Bounty Striped Bass

From well-attended fishing expos to the boat that bears its name, bass are one of the most popular sport fish among Virginia fishermen. The Striped bass is often called “true bass” or “sea bass” to distinguish it from the small or large-mouth species.

Striped bass
Striped bass
Striped bass fishing is fun!
Stripers in Ultraviolet

Striped bass (Morone saxatilis), also referred to as rockfish or stripers, vary in color from light green to blue, brown or black with a white belly. An Atlantic coastal fish, it ranges from Florida to Nova Scotia. Adults usually have 7 to 8 stripes across the sides and a forked, dark-colored tail fin. Stripers grow to approximately 20 inches and usually weigh around 30 pounds, but can max out at 6 feet long and weigh 125 pounds! 

By nature, stripers are anadromous, spending most of their adult lives in saltwater, making spring "spawning runs" to freshwater tidal rivers such as the James River. Each spring anadromous stripers move from the ocean and Chesapeake Bay to spawn in freshwater reaches of tidal rivers. Some fish may swim as much as 100 miles upstream. Able to live in either fresh or salt water, some landlocked stripers spend their entire lives in fresh water. They migrate up tributary rivers of larger reservoirs to spawn, often just below dams or upstream obstructions. When water temperatures are from 55° to 60°F, the females deposit their semi-buoyant eggs in the current. They are fertilized as they are being released, and stay afloat until the fry hatch out. 

Overfishing and destruction of spawning areas caused populations of the striped bass to decline at an alarming rate in the 1970s and 1980s. A moratorium on fishing brought their populations back from the brink of collapse. However, as reported in the James River Association's 2011 State of the James report, the James River's striped bass population is only at about 49% of the benchmark. 

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has established limits on the commercial and recreational fishing industry for striped bass in Virginia. Regulations located within Chapter 4 VAC 20-252-10 et seq. also establish rules for aquaculture of striped and hybrid striped bass to prevent the escape of cultured hybrid into the natural environment and minimize the impact of cultured fish in the market place. One of the most important protections that the laws enforce are those of the spawning areas, which in the James River watershed span from a line connecting Dancing Point and New Sunken Meadow Creek upstream to a line connecting City Point and Packs Point. Improved river health is one of the most effective ways to protect spawning areas and improve the population numbers of this popular native fish.


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For More Information, Contact:

Gabe Silver

James River Association

9 South 12th Street, 4th Floor

Richmond, VA 23219

Phone: 894-788-8811

[email protected]

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