Sea Bass vs. Striped Bass: The Differences Explained

There is no shortage of different types to choose from when it comes to fishing, and even when you narrow it down to a certain kind, like bass, it’ll still leave you with a multitude of choices. However, it is essential to know the difference between the many subspecies of bass so you can decide which kind would be possible for you to catch.

Sea bass is a family of bass species that live in the sea, found all over the globe and vary massively in terms of size, shape, and color. However, the striped bass is a singular fish species found mainly along the Atlantic coastline of North America, and looks relatively similar by pattern and size.

In this article, we will give you a brief overview of both sea bass and striped bass, and then we will explain the differences between the two. Now let’s get started.

The Basics of Bass

Before discussing the differences between sea bass and striped bass, let’s go over some basics about these fish first.

The term ‘bass’ is a name that describes a variety of fish species. It includes both freshwater and marine species that all belong to the Perciformes order of fish. It comprises several subfamilies and species of perch-like fish. Bass are prevalent game fish in both North America and South Africa.

Today we will be discussing one subfamily, namely sea bass, and one species, namely striped bass, of this fish type, and then we will compare the two to see the differences between them.

Sea Bass: A Brief Overview

Photo Credit – @fishing_opale

Sea bass is the collective term used to describe the many fish species that make up the Serranidae family. There are roughly 475 different species that fall under this name, and though the family name is sea “bass,” it is not only made up of bass fish species. Some of the other fish species that fall in this grouping are the hind, hamlet, cony, grouper, graysby, and jewfish. And of course, several types of bass fall into this category as well.

Most of the fish species in this category are saltwater fish, but there are a few that are anadromous, meaning that they migrate between freshwater and saltwater environments.

These fish all have a perch-like body shape, elongated with small scales, a larger mouth, and either a straight-edged or rounded tail. Their dorsal fin consists of a spiny front section and a rear soft-rayed section.

They are carnivorous and feed on other small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Some species are very active, while others are more passive. Certain species are known to be hermaphroditic while others mature as one sex and then later change to another.

The different species in this family vary quite hugely in size; some larger species growing to be 6 feet (2 meters) or longer, while other species are only a few inches (or centimeters) long. The smaller fish only weigh a few pounds, while larger species can weigh up to 900 pounds (400 kg). They also vary just as much in color and pattern and can often change color at will or change color as they mature.

Striped Bass: A Brief Overview

Photo Credit – @shotsby_ptay

The striped bass is a species of fish that forms part of the Moronidae family. It is also sometimes known as the Atlantic striped bass, linesider, rock, rockfish, or striper. They are found most commonly in the temperate waters along the Atlantic coastline of North America and less commonly in Europe. 

They have also been introduced into other areas outside their natural range, including the Pacific coast of North America, Ecuador, Iran, Latvia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and Turkey, to name a few. They are a popular food and sports fish and have been brought into recreational fisheries all across the United States.

The striped basses are an anadromous species. This means that while they live their adult lives in the sea, they migrate upstream when it is time for them to spawn. The young fish live in freshwater for the first year of their lives and then move downstream to an estuary to migrate into saltwater.

Some groups of striped basses have become landlocked because a dam was built along the river they were spawning in and have adapted to living on freshwater their whole lives.

Striped bass, as you can deduce from the name, have long, slim bodies with silvery scales and have stripes down the length of their back and sides made up of darker scales. They most often have straight-edged tails and two separate dorsal fins that join at the base. Weighing in at around 20-40 pounds (9-18 kg) when matured and measuring between 20 and 35 inches (50-90 cm), these fish can live for up to 30 years.

The Differences Between Sea Bass and Striped Bass

Photo Credit. – @navegante_sportfishing

Now that we’ve discussed both sea and striped bass, let’s discuss the differences between them.

By far, the most significant difference between sea bass and striped bass is that the term ‘sea bass’ refers to the collection of various species of marine fish, consisting of roughly 475 different species of bass. On the other hand, striped bass is a singular species of bass that is part of the Moronidae family. The Moronidae family is often considered to be a subfamily of sea bass, meaning that the striped bass is technically a type of sea bass.

Sea basses are found all around the world, including North America, Europe, Australia, and the northern island of New Zealand, to name a few. Striped bass is naturally found only along the Atlantic coast of North America. However, they have been introduced into lakes on the Pacific coast of North America and other countries, including Ecuador, Iran, Latvia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and Turkey, for aquaculture and sport fishing purposes.

Sea bass and striped bass also differ significantly when it comes to size. Striped bass usually grows to be around 20 to 35 inches (50 to 90 cm) and can weigh anywhere between 5 and 40 pounds (2-18 kg). The size of sea basses varies greatly, ranging from just a few inches (or centimeters) all the way to 9 feet (2.7 meters) in the giant grouper. These large fish can also weigh up to 900 pounds (400 kg).

Photo Credit – @robdalyyy

Another difference between sea bass and the striped bass is their appearance. The striped bass is quite easily recognizable. They have a slim body covered in silver scales and dark stripes running longitudinally from behind the gills down to their tails’ base. Sea basses, however, have no distinct look. Each species has a different body shape and color, and sometimes the color even varies within a single species.

Some sea bass species are able to change their color pattern at will, and sometimes the younger fish have a different pattern to the adults. It is also typical for those species that live deeper down in the ocean to have a deeper red than those living near the shore.

The last major difference between sea basses and the striped bass is the waters that they live in. As you may be able to guess by their name, sea basses live almost exclusively in saltwater environments, meaning the ocean. However, the striped bass is considered an anadromous species of fish, which means that they migrate from the ocean into rivers for the spawning season and then travel back to the ocean once their young have hatched.

There may be some other differences you may encounter when comparing a specific species of sea bass to the striped bass species; however, it is not entirely possible to compare a singular species of fish to a whole family of fish species. So we have listed just the fundamental differences between all species of sea basses and the striped bass.


While it may not be easy to compare several different fish to one another, we hope this article was able to give you some insight into the differences between the sea bass family and striped bass. And good luck catching that fish!


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