Look back to the period of Colonialism and youâ€™ll see that, even then, striped bass were a staple in the fishing game.
This popular fish has been sought-after for centuries for its delicious flavor and abundance across the US. But, many donâ€™t actually know much about this fish beyond that itâ€™s a great catch.
In order to properly catch, treat, and even eat your striped bass, you need to be knowledgeable about the fish.
Everything from what it looks like to where itâ€™s found and how you can catch it is found below, helping you get to know this special fish a whole lot better.
What are Striped Bass?
Letâ€™s start with the basics: what are striped bass? Striped bass are fish part of the Moronidae family, often referred to as stripers or rockfish.
Theyâ€™re somewhat abundant fish types found in North America, and you can typically find them in most fisheries. This is not only because of their delicious flavors, but striped bass are also known for their large sizes which make for an impressive catch.
These fish are incredibly popular across the states. Because of their popularity, as well as the fact that theyâ€™re top predators in the water, fishing has been limited to help reduce and end overfishing.
Preserving these striped bass is crucial to the ecosystem, so many fisheries have strict regulations surrounding these popular big boys.
Weâ€™ll get more into detail later, but striped bass are fairly popular fish for their ability to be caught, availability, and the recipes you can make with these hefty fish.
For many, striped bass are a go-to fish during a fishing trip, and, even if theyâ€™re common, catching one is still such an exciting feat.
Why are They Called â€˜RockFishâ€™?
If you canâ€™t find your striped bass at the surface of the water, thatâ€™s probably because itâ€™s hiding in the nooks and crannies at the bottom of the seafloor.
Able to wedge itself in between rocks and into the tightest corners of the ocean, the striped bass is also affectionately called the Rockfish for this exact reason.
While striped bass do not resemble rocks, despite their occasionally brown colors, they simply utilize these rocks as hiding places much better than your typical fish.Â
What Do They Look Like?
Now that you know just what these fish are, we can help you understand what they look like, too.
Striped bass, unsurprisingly, are known for their clear stripes running from their gills right down their back to their tails. Typically, their stripes are going to be a dark brown or black color juxtaposed to their silver color.
While the top of their heads and first half of their body might be primarily silver, it does fade to a beautiful olive-green color as it continues down the body of the fish.
Other striped bass are purely blue or black, but theyâ€™ll always have the noticeable stripes, and, usually, an iridescent belly.
When it comes to size, striped bass are quite large. On average, youâ€™ll likely find a striped bass thatâ€™s around two to three feet in length and weigh around 20 to 30 pounds.
However, these fish have the ability to grow up to five or six feet long, weighing well over 100 pounds. If you catch one of these, youâ€™re going to need a little help reeling it in.
Striped bass can live up to 30 years if theyâ€™re not caught, so coming across one of the larger basses isnâ€™t too far-fetched.
Where Are They Found?
You can find striped bass all over North America. Primarily, they reside in the US Atlantic Coast, stretching up from Canada, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
These fish are incredibly interesting because they are technically considered anadromous, which means that they live in sea and then breed in freshwater, similar to how salmon act.
Because of this, theyâ€™re able to see in more places and bodies of water around the country than many other fish.
Along with being found in the Atlantic Coast, striped bass were also introduced to reservoirs, fisheries, and inland lakes across the West Coast of the US.
So, regardless of which side of the country youâ€™re on, thereâ€™s a good chance that thereâ€™s some striped bass waiting to be caught.Â
How to Best Catch Them
As we mentioned, catching striped bass can be somewhat easy if you know what youâ€™re looking for and have all the right equipment.
The first thing to note about fishing striped bass is that theyâ€™re most active in the early morning. Typically, if youâ€™re out on the water before dawn or right after sunrise, youâ€™ll be in a much better position to catch striped bass.
On the same note, going fishing about two hours before sunset is also valuable, as these rockfish tend to be out and about then, too.
Experts note that striped bass also seem to be incredibly active during cold fronts or right before a major storm. If youâ€™re lucky to be out during these times, youâ€™re even more likely to have a few of these big fish hanging from your line.
When it comes to finding the perfect fishing rod for catching your striped bass, this does depend on your comfortability. However, many people strongly believe that slow-action rods are the best route to go for these heavy fish.
Slow-action rods are much more malleable and bendable than other rods, able to bend all the way from tip to butt without breaking. These rods are known for being able to absorb energy from wiggles and violent thrashes from your catch, especially when theyâ€™re as large as a striped bass.
Lures, on the other hand, are a bit up for debate as to which are the best for catching striped bass. While some fishermen swear by hard baits, others are convinced that soft is the way to go. Weâ€™ll talk about the pros and cons of both.
Hard Bait Lures
Striped bass may be found at the bottom of the water or skimming the surface. Hard bait lures, then, are ideal for either dropping down low to catch big fish or to skim across the water to attract those near the surface. Many fisherman claim that lures like Skitter Walks attract much larger fish due to their deliberate, aggressive motions. Creating such movement, many believe, are what draws these striped bass to the lure itself.
Other hard bait lures like Jumping Minnows also create attractive movements in the water that lighter, softer baits simply cannot. The dancing movements entices striped bass as it reminds them of their prey, swimming wildly about the water. If the weather is bad and the water is too choppy for a jumpy bait like this one, you can always switch to something a bit more dense.
Soft Bait Lures
As you may have noticed, while the hard baits above creates quite realistic movement within the water, that movement is primarily driven by the angler themselves, not the actual lure. To take a little less pressure of yourself, many choose to use soft bait lures to catch their striped bass.
Lures like the Slug-Go are ideal for sneaking up on relaxing rockfish near the surface of the water. The movement that the Slug-Go creates are almost nonexistent, so you can get right up to the fish without them even noticing–until youâ€™re enticed, that is. These baits provide quiet, soft-landings that are ideal for keeping everything slow and steady.
Other soft plastic lures like the RonZ are easy to use and even easier to cast. All you have to do is cast this bait out into the water, let it sink, and then slow jiggle it back up to the surface. These intentional movements are gentle yet obvious enough for your precious striped bass to see and, hopefully, grab onto.
Truly, no matter what lure (or rod) you try to use, as long as youâ€™re following proper technique and know the striped bass well, you should have no issue using just what you got.
Our Favorite Striped Bass Recipes
Okay, youâ€™ve caught your striped bassâ€¦ now what? Thatâ€™s easy: itâ€™s time to start cooking with your delicious striped bass!
Not only is it fun to fish, but striped bass creates a hearty, flavorful dish that your whole family can feed off of. Here are some of our favorite recipes and how you should use your striped bass.Â
Grilled Striped Bass
You canâ€™t go wrong with a simple grilled striped bass (especially one that comes from Martha Stewartâ€™s recipe book). For this, youâ€™ll need:
- Â¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Sprigs of thyme or oregano
- 2 mashed garlic cloves
- â…› tsp of freshly ground pepper
- 4 striped bass fillet (skin on)
- Coarse salt
- Fresh chives
- Lemon wedges
After you have your ingredients, itâ€™s time to start cooking. In a bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme or oregano, garlic and pepper. Mix. This will be your fishâ€™s marinade. Take your striped bass and dunk it in the marinade, ensuring it is coated entirely.
Cover your marinated striped bass with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to let the flavor soak.
Then, turn on your grill or place a plan on medium-high heat on your stove. Unwrap the plastic from your bass, letting any excess moisture drip out. Put it on the pan or grill, skin-side-down, seasoning with salt. Once the skin is starting to crisp, flip the striped bass over. This side should cook for about 5 minutes, or until the center is opaque with a nice brown coating.
Remove from heat, garnish with lemon and chives, and appreciate the deliciousness that your fresh-caught striped bass has brought you.
Sauteed Striped Bass with Lemon and Herb Sauce
Not in the mood to heat your grill? No worries, hereâ€™s another delicious way of enjoying your striped bass. (We have CookingLight to thank for this one.)
- 4 striped bass (skin on)
- Â¼ tsp of black pepper
- 1 tsp of Kosher salt
- 1 lemon, halved lengthwise
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 tbsp of white wine
- 2 tbsp of cold, unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp of chopped, fresh parsley
To make this yummy recipe, start by seasoning your striped bass with salt and pepper on each side then let it soak for about 20 minutes. Once this time has passed, grab a large non-stick skillet and place it over medium-high heat.
Add your lemon, cut-side-down, and cook until theyâ€™re just slightly charred on the peel. Then, add your olive oil and fillets, skin-side-down, into the pan, too. Let the fillets cook for about five or so minutes, careful not to touch them. Once their middles are almost fully opaque with a nice brown on the outside, shake the pan gently. By doing this, the fish will unstick from the pan without ruining the skin.
After itâ€™s unstuck, go ahead and flip it. Here, you only have to cook these fillets for about a minute before transferring them, along with the lemon, to another plate. Wipe your skillet clean, and then put it over medium-low heat.
Here, youâ€™ll add your white wine, more salt, and butter. Whisk the mixture until the butter is melted completely, pour or fillets, and sprinkle with parsley. Is your mouth watering yet?
Being a Striped Bass Expert
Now that you know practically everything there is to know about striped bass, itâ€™s time to go out there and catch some for yourself. Whether youâ€™re in need of extra tips to improve your fishing game, advice on when to go, or even just the best places to travel to, The Broken Reel is here to help with it all.
So, go gather up your fishing equipment and start getting prepared to reel in a beautiful striped bass. We promise, once you catch your first once, youâ€™ll never want to be away from the water again.