(From the Division of Marine Fisheries)
The striped bass, or "striper," one of the most avidly pursued of all coastal sport fish, is native to most of the East Coast, ranging from the lower St. Lawrence River in Canada to Northern Florida, and along portions of the Gulf of Mexico. The striped bass has been prized in Massachusetts since colonial times. In 1670, Plymouth Colony established a free school with income from coastal striped bass fisheries. Thus, one of the first public schools in America was supported by this highly valued resource.
Striped bass can live up to 40 years and can reach weights greater than 100 pounds, although individuals larger than 50 pounds are rare. Stripers are strictly spring to fall transients in Massachusetts. Only a few fish inhabiting coastal Massachusetts waters in the summer have been known to overwinter in the mouths of southern New England streams.
The recent extremely prolonged period of reproductive failure had caused a steady decline in striped bass abundance. The decline was reflected in decreasing success by anglers. For example, the estimated catch by anglers from the Gulf of Maine to the mid-Atlantic region fell from 6,600,000 pounds in 1979 to 1,700,000 pounds in 1985. The decline in abundance of stripers coming from the Chesapeake Bay was felt to be caused by a combination of factors, including the presence of a variety of pollutants in spawning grounds, fishing pressure, and feeding and nutritional problems of larvae.