Striped Bass, (Morone Saxitilis). Also known as: Striper, Linesider, Bass.
Average: 20 – 35 inches.
Trophy: 35+ inches.
– Dynamic feeding habits.
– Large migratory schools.
– Variety of ecosystems/environments in which they can be targeted.
Long Island, Nantucket, Maine
Striped Bass are one of North America’s most unique, alluring, and targeted gamefish. The fish has a cult-like following along the inshore waters of the North Atlantic. Crazed Striper anglers can be found in coastal communities from North Carolina to Nova Scotia. At the same time, targeting these fish with fur and feathers, is considered a niche tactic in the majority of these communities and the species has not been one to draw the attention of destination anglers.
Perhaps this is due to the more developed region of the world that these fish inhabit; fly anglers seeking a wilderness experience might not exactly have Cape Cod, Nantucket, or The Hamptons in mind when considering their next destination (although their families and significant others might not mind). That being said, the multitude of tactics and strategies that can be employed to trick these fish and the sheer beauty and diversity of environments in which they can be found should put the Morone Saxitilis on the shortlist for any angler interested in a dynamic saltwater fly fishing experience.
Any striped bass angler who’s spent a full season chasing these fish will tell you that the magic of the striper comes from the variety of ways in which they can be targeted. From fishing deep offshore rips, ledges, and reefs, to chasing blitzes and poling sand flats, stripers can be caught in nearly any environment. Not only is there a great deal of variability in how these fish can be pursued, but because their season is so short and dynamic, it is safe to say that when Striper fishing, no two days are the same.
Striped bass are a very hearty species, and can be found beyond the waters of the northeast of North America in both ecosystems where the fish is endemic but less common, such as Florida, and ones where the fish has been introduced, such as Northern California. Due to the durability of the species and its natural annual transition from brackish to saltwater, the fish has also been successfully introduced to freshwater ecosystems and bred with White bass to create “hybrids” or “Wipers.”
Striped Bass are an anadromous fish, spawning and wintering in the brackish bays and estuaries of the northeast. In Spring they migrate out into the ocean and follow warmer water temperatures and bait up the coast. A major part of the striper’s allure is this fleeting seasonal presence. Major brackish systems such as the Hudson river in New York and the Mid-Atlantic’s Chesapeake Bay represent crucial wintering grounds for a significant portion of the striped bass population.
The Striped Bass can weigh as much as 100 pounds, but it is very rare to find a fish that has grown over 50 pounds. Females are generally much larger than males, and the majority of fish over 30 pounds are female. Stripers are known to live up to 40 years.
An average breeding-size female, weighing about 12 pounds, can produce about 850,000 eggs. As the females increase in size their productivity increases - a 55 pound female can produce over 4,000,000 eggs. Spawning occurs in the spring and early summer, when water in brackish rivers and estuaries warms to about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Much like the environments in which they can be chased, there is a wide variety of set-ups that can be used to target striped bass. From a 7wt for early season fish and “schoolies” to a 10wt for chasing big fish in off-shore rips, there is truly a set up for every situation. That being said, the most versatile rig that an angler chasing stripers could have is an 8wt with a large-arbor reel and two spools: 1 with a weight forward floating line, and another with an intermediate line. This will cover a variety of scenarios, from flats to rips, and poppers to big baitfish patterns. A 7’ to 10’ leader is standard, with tippet ranging from 12lb to 20lb.
Fly selection varies greatly on the situation, which is one of the most entertaining aspects of pursuing these fish. That being said, the most popular pattern of all time is of course, Bob Clouser’s Clouser Minnow.