Striped bass caught in a fishing net.
Striped bass caught in a fishing net.
Courtesy: NOAA

Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)

Alternate common names: Striper, Rockfish.
Color: Dark green olive to dark blue on the top, with silvery grey sides and white belly. Seven to eight dark horizontal stripes.
Size: Averages 20 to 30 inches long, weighing approximately 5 pounds. Can grow to 5 feet long and weigh 70 to 80 pounds.
Habitat: Open water along rocky shores, sandy beaches, salt ponds, and rivers.
Seasonal appearance: Early April to late fall; migrate south during winter. Winter holdovers are common in Rhode Island waters.


The striped bass is one of the most widely recognized fish in Narragansett Bay and greater Rhode Island. The body of the striped bass is thick, stout, and lined with seven to eight narrow horizontal stripes, the highest being its most distinctive. The striped bass has two well-developed dorsal fins, one spiny and one soft-rayed, and a wide, forked tail. The mouth is large with small teeth, and its lower jaw protrudes slightly.

Life History and Behavior

This fish is a powerful swimmer and is able to swim in harsh surf environments. Most striped bass travel in large schools, except for the very large fish, which travel in solitary. For the first two years of life, striped bass live in small groups and are often called "schoolies." Female fish grow larger than males and are referred to as "cows." Most striped bass longer than 30 inches are females. They feed on many species of finfish, including river herring, Atlantic menhaden, flounders, and Atlantic silversides, as well as many species of invertebrates, including American lobsters, crabs, clams, squid, and worms. The striped bass is an anadromous fish, meaning it migrates from salt water to fresh water for spawning. They undertake long migrations south along the Atlantic coast to spawn each spring and migrate north along the coast during warmer summer months. They appear in Rhode Island during these northern summer migrations after spawning. Many of the individuals seen seasonally in New England waters are believed to have originated in the fresh waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River.

Fishery Note The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages the striped bass fishery to address theconservation and management needs of coastal populations.
Striped bass is a highly prized saltwater game fish in Rhode Island.
Striped bass is a highly prized saltwater game fish in Rhode Island.
Courtesy: NMFS

Special Notes

Adapted from The Uncommon Guide to Common Life on Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay, 1998.