If you love catching striped bass from a nearby lake but are planning a fishing trip to the ocean, you might wonder if you will be able to catch your favorite fish. But can striped bass live in saltwater?
Striped bass can live in saltwater. Stripers are born in freshwater, migrate to saltwater, and then return to spawn in freshwater. They can be found in lakes because the stripers were landlocked or the lake was stocked with them for sportfishing.
You are not limited to fishing for striped bass in freshwater lakes and rivers. If you want to know how to fish for them in saltwater, we have some advice for you.
Where Do Striped Bass Live?
Striped bass live in both fresh and saltwater. Like salmon, stripers are anadromous fish—species that are born in freshwater, migrate to saltwater, and return to freshwater to spawn. Unlike salmon, which spawn just once, striped bass can spawn multiple times.
Anadromous fish need complex adaptations to regulate the amount of salt and water (osmoregulation). These adaptations have benefits—the younger fish have fewer predators in freshwater streams until they are large enough to survive in the ocean, where they will have more prey to feed on.
Why Striped Bass Are in Lakes and Ponds
So, if striped bass are supposed to swim to the ocean, how do they wind up in freshwater lakes and ponds? They can’t breathe air and are not capable of traveling over the land like walking catfish.
Striped bass become landlocked due to a drought or a dam (manmade or beaver-built). Once landlocked, they use existing creeks, streams, and rivers to find larger bodies of water. As rain, floods, or droughts change the landscape, creating new streams, they can use those to find new lakes.
Other animals can also bring them to a lake, primarily by fish roe carried on their fur as they travel between bodies of water.
More likely, though, the bass were initially introduced into lakes to provide fish for sports fishing. A female striped bass can lay 3 million eggs over her lifetime, and if only a small percentage of them survive, the stripers have found a new home.
What Are Hybrid Striped Bass?
Maybe you haven’t been catching striped bass, but one of their cousins—white bass or hybrid striped bass.
Telling white and striped bass apart is usually straightforward. The white bass is shorter and rounder than a striper, and its stripes are faint. If a visual inspection hasn’t convinced you, open the fish’s mouth. If you see one tooth patch on the tongue, you’ve caught a white bass.
Also known as wipers or Whiterock bass, a hybrid striper is a cross between a striped and a white. They can be more difficult to distinguish from striped bass. Hybrids are not as long as a striper but also not as round as white bass. Their stripes are not faint, but they are patchy and broken instead of solid like striped bass.
Unlike some hybrids, Whiterock bass are fertile—able to reproduce with either white or striped bass but not with each other. These bass were developed in the mid-60s as sporting fish to offset the loss of striped bass.
At first, fisheries were hesitant to farm hybrid striped bass. However, once it became clear that the hybrids could be profitable, they started cultivating them. By the early 21st century, hybrid stripes had become a major aquatic farming fish. Because true striped bass are expensive, a restaurant is likely to be serving hybrid striped bass.
How to Catch Stripers in Saltwater
If you understand how a striper behaves, you will have more success reeling them in. These facts are crucial to catching them:
- Stripers don’t have eyelids, so they prefer to feed at dawn or dusk. They also feed heavily at night.
- Stripers prefer cooler water. Once water temperatures go over 75°F (23.9°C), they head for deeper, cooler water.
- During high tide, stripers often head into shallow flats and return to deeper waters during low tide.
- Natural or manmade structures tend to attract stripers. These include boulders, ledges, rips, and drop-offs, as well as bridge abutments and wreckage from boats.
- Stripers are opportunistic feeders. Although they have food preferences, they can surprise the most experienced angler. If a bait doesn’t work for you, be willing to experiment.
It’s time to apply this knowledge to how you plan to fish, whether it be fly fishing, night fishing, or something else.
Catching Stripers From the Shore
Surf fishing is popular in many beach towns, and you will often be able to find rigs for striped bass fishing in tackle shops.
Here are some tips for fishing from the shore:
- Fish at dawn or dusk.
- Scout areas during low tide for drop-offs, cuts, or bars.
- The oily scent from fresh bait gets washed out, so after 20 to 30 minutes, you should change your bait.
- Be patient and don’t move too much. The stripers are also moving—wait for them to find you.
- Don’t assume that the fish are far away from shore. Stripers prefer areas where their prey are disoriented, such as breaking waves. Cast your lure behind the wave crest.
Lures that work in one part of the country won’t work in another, so your best bet would be to ask around at tackle shops or where people are fishing.
Is Night Fishing a Great Way To Catch Striped Bass?
Night fishing is an excellent way to reel in striped bass because that’s when they are on the prowl for food.
- Once again, scout out locations at low tide.
- When you are fishing, listen for the popping sound of fish feeding on the surface. Wade out a few yards so you are not distracted by the shore break.
- If you see whitewater, feeding fish are nearby.
- Headlamps, flashlights, and waterproof light sources are a must if fishing from a boat.
- Nightlights can be used to lure baitfish, which then attracts the stripers.
In the summer, if you get tired of the heat and humidity, night fishing is a great way to avoid them.
Live Baits for Striped Bass
If you want to use live bait to lure stripers, you have several options. There are some baits that stripers find irresistible, and you will have better luck if the bait you are using is naturally found there.
- Live eels: Stripers love live eels, but these slimy creatures are difficult to handle and typically expensive. Small stripers shy away from eels, so if you want to hook a big striper, then eels might be a worthwhile investment.
- Crabs: Crabs are another irresistible lure. You’ll have better luck with a soft-shelled crab, but to a striper, a crab is a crab. This bait works better in waters where crabs hatch.
- Bunker: Bunkers, also known as menhaden, are preferred by many bass anglers (and stripers). However, most bait shops don’t carry a live bunker, so anglers resort to catching their own.
- Herring: Another popular live bait, herring, are also popular with stripers and anglers. However, you will have difficulty finding herring in bait shops.
- Additional baits: Baits such as clams, mullet, croakers, sandworms, and bloodworms also catch a striper’s attention, especially in areas where they are naturally found.
Striped bass can live in both salt and freshwater. The stripers you have caught on lakes either became landlocked after they hatched or the lake was stocked with stripers.
There are plenty of striped bass in the ocean, so if you have a hankering for striped bass and are heading to the beach, take your gear. Who knows what kind of fish tales you’ll have to tell when you get back home.