Can Striped Bass See at Night?

Photo Credit – @kim.hunteress

If you’re an angler, you’re likely accustomed to late-night and early-morning outings, but the real question is: can the fish for which you’re angling spot you in the dead of night? The striped bass (Morone saxatilis) is a popular sport species, and many anglers wonder just how well a striped bass might see in dark waters.

Striped bass can see at night or in dark conditions slightly better than humans can, but they’re attracted to light. So, anglers hoping to snag a striped bass may want to use a reflective lure that shines in moonlight or sunlight. Shiny lures may attract a striped bass more easily than muted ones.

While this species can see a little better in low-light conditions than the standard angler can, it still prefers lit environments. For that reason, individuals hoping to reel in a striped bass might need to use a reflective lure instead of a dull, muted one. Let’s discover more about striped basses and how they see the world around them.

What Is the Striped Bass?

There are many different varieties of bass. Some live only in freshwater streams and rivers, while others brave coastal areas and brackish pools. The striped bass is one of the larger types of bass found in North America. 

They live in both fresh and saltwater environments, though they only breed and spawn in freshwater bodies and streams. A young striped bass may grow up to five feet (1.5 meters) in length after migrating to the more competitive ocean waters. 

As such, anglers of all ages can feel proud to lure one of these fish in for a quick picture. This species also happens to be one of the best for cooking. It’s up to each angler (and local fishing laws and regulations) to decide whether to toss their catch back. 

If you decide to keep your catch, you can rest easy knowing that a mature and sporting striped bass could keep you fed for weeks. To snatch the best possible specimen, you’ll want to delve a little more deeply into the habitat, physiology, diet, and behavior of these fish.


Stripers (nickname for striped bass) often inhabit the temperate-to-warm waters of the North American eastern coastline. They can be found as far north as Canada and as far south as Florida. Interestingly, this species is known to frequent the Gulf of Mexico. As such, anglers in Louisiana may be able to reel in a fine striper while out on the choppy gulf water.

Photo Credit – @kim.hunteress

The West Coast isn’t a stranger to striped bass, at least artificially. Many lakes and human-made water bodies in California, Oregon, and Washington now contain stripers. 


The striped bass is so-called because of its lateral (or horizontal) rows of dark dots or stripes. Typically, a striper has a white or grey belly and abdomen and a darker green and brown spinal section and head. This coloration helps to protect it from becoming a larger fish’s lunch.

Predatory fish swimming below may only see bright, reflective light when looking up at the belly of a striped bass. Potential aggressors swimming above will only see the apparent gloom and murk of the ocean bottom when looking down at a striper. Meanwhile, the striped bass will spot reflective scales and surfaces to the left and right of its body.

The walleye (Sander vitreus), a fish known for its exceptional nighttime vision, has a slightly different eye type than the striped bass. While both feature a similar shape and general size, the striper’s eyes have a somewhat smaller pupil. 

The pupil is the part of the eye that expands and contracts to allow light into the lens. When you’re in a dark area, the pupil enlarges to help you see more clearly. The opposite is true when entering a very bright room or space. A fish’s maximum potential pupil size can say a lot about its nighttime vision. 

Those with small, fixed pupils may be less likely to spot things in the darkness. Still, many of the creatures in the darkest corners of the oceans have hardly any vision at all. Instead, they rely on their sense of smell and movement to help them find a meal.


Striped basses can grow far larger than other types of bass, and smaller fish are often a part of their menu. They’re known to eat flounder, smelt, and eels. Like different varieties of bass, a striped bass also enjoys dining in various crustaceans and cephalopods.

Crabs, lobsters, mussels, clams, and squid are typical snacks for the striped bass. They may eat throughout the day when visibility is good, but they’re also opportunistic nighttime eaters. Because mature striped bass chows down on more fish than insects, anglers should choose a larger lure when hoping to hook one.


A striper is usually active during the daytime hours and slightly more reserved at night. Part of this behavior pattern may have to do with the fact that much of a striped bass’s prey is active during the day, but eyesight may also influence general behaviors. 

Young stripers develop in the safety of freshwater streams and rivers. As they mature, they naturally begin to make their way toward the ocean. When it’s time to spawn, adult striped basses return to their original birthing location to procreate. 

This massive move typically occurs in the late winter and early spring seasons, so anglers may want to avoid fishing for stripers until the late summer and early fall. 

Can Fish See in Dark Water?

Many types of fish can see quite well in dark waters. However, most of these aquatic creatures are accustomed to living in the ocean’s deepest, darkest areas. The striped bass is not one of these species. It prefers to live relatively close to the water’s surface, and it doesn’t often travel far from coastal shorelines.

Other types of fish, however, can see very well in the dark depths of the ocean. Strange and exotic organisms living in the most oppressively dark and cold regions of the sea may have the best night vision of all aquatic creatures. 

Because light is such a rare phenomenon in the deepest parts of the ocean, many species living there have exceptionally photosensitive eyes that can perceive a greater depth of light and darkness than our human eyes can. The striped bass travels along Atlantic Ocean currents, but it doesn’t inhabit depths greater than 100 feet (30.5 meters).

Consequently, the striped bass is quite accustomed to day-and-night light cycles. Still, its night vision is slightly superior to ours.

Can Striped Bass See in Total Darkness?

While a striped bass might see through moonlit waters, it cannot see in total darkness. Generally, striped basses tend to stay near the coastline and away from deeper, darker, and cooler waters. 

They can be found roiling in the ocean foam near the water’s surface and swimming powerfully just feet below a sailboat’s stern. The average striped bass might be able to see a little more clearly than humans can in murky water, but they’re attracted to light. 


Can a striped bass see at night? This species can see better in dark conditions than the average human, but its vision improves with light. This fish is attracted to light, and if one spots a shiny lure hovering in a dark pool of water, it might go after it.

Anglers hoping to catch the largest and most brag-worthy striped bass should frequent the eastern United States’ coastline. Some of the most impressive catches have been found in these Atlantic waters. The lucky angler is often spotted hoisting their reflective lure in triumph after reeling-in a striped bass.


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