Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Fish: Striper Fish
All Florida populations of striped bass are river dwellers Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) The striper is the largest member of the temperate bass family. Body coloration is olive-green to blue-gray on the back with silvery to brassy sides and white on the belly. It is easily recognized by the seven or eight prominent black uninterrupted horizontal stripes along the sides. The stripes are often interrupted or broken and are usually absent on young fish of less than six inches. The striper is longer and sleeker and has a larger head than its close and similar looking relative, the white bass, which rarely exceeds three pounds. There are no recognized subspecies, but other common names for the striper fish include striper, rockfish, rock, and linesides.

The striper on the Atlantic Coast has a range from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, N.Y. to the St. Johns River in northern Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from western Florida to Louisiana. All Florida populations of striped bass are river dwellers rather than anadromous (normally living in salt or brackish waters, but entering freshwater streams to spawn). The species has been widely introduced in numerous lakes, rivers and impoundments throughout the world. Stripers prefer relatively clear water with a good supply of open-water baitfish. Their preferred water temperature range is 65 to 70 degrees.

Stripers are voracious feeders and consume any kind of small fish and a variety of invertebrates. Preferred foods for adults mainly consist of gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners and minnows. Younger fish prefer to feed on amphipods and mayflies. Very small stripers feed on zooplankton. Like other temperate bass, they move in schools, and all members of the school tend to feed at the same time. Heaviest feeding is in early morning and in evening, but they feed sporadically throughout the day, especially when skies are overcast. Feeding slows when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees but does not stop completely.

Stripers are fast-growing and long-lived and have reached weights of over 40 pounds in Florida. Sexual maturity occurs at about two years of age for male stripers and at four years of age for females. They can reach a size of 10 to 12 inches the first year.

The striper tends to be an underrated trophy sport fish among many Florida anglers. However, for fishermen who have caught this species there is no disputing the striper is a superstar among freshwater fishes. Live shad and eels are excellent baits for catching big stripers. Other popular baits include white or yellow bucktail jigs, spoons, deep running crank baits and a spinner with plastic worm rig. Popping plugs are best when stripers are schooling at the surface. The state record catch for the striped bass 42 pounds, 4 ounces, caught in the Apalachicola River, in 1993.

Sunshines are stocked throughout Florida. The largest fish are from northwest Florida, but sunshine bass have produced fisheries as far south as Lake OsborneSunshine (M. chrysops x M. saxatilis) The sunshine bass is a hybrid produced by crossing a female white bass with a male striped bass. Sunshines closely resemble both striped bass and white bass making identification difficult, particularly for young fish. When comparing adult fish, the sunshine has a deep body and an arched back similar to the white bass. Sunshines can often be distinguished by broken or irregular stripes on the front half of body and straight lines on the rear half of body. A mid-body break in line pattern occasionally occurs. Sunshines are stocked throughout Florida. The largest fish are from northwest Florida, but sunshine bass have produced fisheries as far south as Lake Osborne in West Palm Beach. Sunshines appear to prefer areas within lakes and rivers similar to striped bass and white bass. Older sunshine bass require cooler water during summer months. Like stripers, sunshines are voracious feeders and consume any kind of small fish including threadfin and gizzard shad. Young fish also feed on mayflies and crustaceans. Sunshines also travel and feed in schools with peak activity in the early morning or evening. Sunshines are probably best known for their rapid growth. They have attained weights of six to seven pounds by three years of age. As a sport fish, sunshines are known for their good fighting ability. Live threadfin or other small shad and shrimp are by far the most effective bait for sunshine bass. Artificial lures such as crankbaits, bucktail or feathered jigs, spinners and spoons also do well. Topwater lures also are effective when fish are schooling near the surface. Trolling with artificial lures often helps locate fish when surface feeding is slow.

 In Florida, white bass are found primarily in the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee river systemsWhite Bass (Morone chrysops) The white bass looks similar to a shortened version of its larger relative, the striped bass. It is silvery-white overall with five to eight horizontal dusky black stripes along the sides. Stripes below the lateral line are faint and often broken in an irregular pattern. It differs most noticeably in being shorter and stockier with a smaller head, and the dorsal fins are set closer together. The white bass has a deep body, and is strongly arched behind head. White bass general boundaries are the St. Lawrence River in the east, Lake Winnipeg in the north, the Rio Grande in the west; and northwest Florida and Louisiana in the south. It has been stocked within and outside its natural range. In Florida, white bass are found primarily in the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee river systems, however rare specimens have been located in the Escambia and Yellow rivers. White bass are found in large lakes and streams connected to major river systems and in rivers with moderate current. They prefer clear water with a temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees. Man-made impoundments have greatly favored the white bass, but the species is one that can become overabundant and stunt. White bass are primarily piscivorous. Fry feed on zooplankton first and within a few weeks larger crustaceans and insects are eaten. Larger fish prefer to feed on minnows and thrive on open- water baitfish like gizzard and threadfin shad. Like the striper, white bass move in schools and feed most heavily around dawn or dusk. Although white bass may live up to 10 years, few live beyond three to four years. Females grow slightly faster and probably live longer than males. The average size is one pound with fish over two pounds considered large.
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