Striped bass, or rockfish as they are sometimes called, are one of the most popular game fish in the United States. These bass can grow huge and challenge anglers, making them fun to catch. Properly prepared filets of striped bass are light, flaky, and delicious white meat which adds to their popularity. The confusing part about these fish is that they can be found in freshwater and saltwater, which begs the question: what’s the difference? Let’s dive in and take a look at how these seemingly identical fish compare.
Striped bass are an anadromous fish with a streamlined, silver body that is marked with longitudinal stripes that start at their gills and run to the base of their tail. As an anadromous fish, striped bass can live in freshwater or saltwater similar to rainbow trout, which are called steelhead when they travel to saltwater. The average size of a striped bass is 10 to 30 pounds and 20 to 35 inches long, but they can grow much bigger over the course of their 30 year lifespan.
Striper are found on the Atlantic Coast, from Nova Scotia to Florida, but are most popular north of South Carolina. These fish live their entire lives in the ocean and only enter the freshwater rivers to spawn. Striper have been introduced to the Pacific Coast as well and can now be found from Canada to Mexico.
All freshwater striped bass populations were stocked from the Atlantic striped bass populations to improve fishing opportunities. Today, striper fishing in inland lakes and rivers is popular across the country. Once striped bass were introduced to inland bodies of water, they quickly hybridized with white bass to create the hybrid striped bass or “wiper.” Wiper tend to closely resemble both parent species, but are typically smaller than striped bass.
While the inland striped bass was originally stocked from the Atlantic striped bass, the differences between the two populations are marginal. Saltwater striper tend to grow larger than the freshwater bass, but this is most likely due to an abundance of food resources. The freshwater record for striped bass weighed 69 pounds nine ounces and measured 45.5 inches long, while the saltwater record sits at 81.88 pounds and 54 inches long. While this is a fairly significant difference in size, it does show that the freshwater striped bass can grow just as big as the saltwater fish.
Catching these fish is challenging regardless of whether you’re fishing in saltwater or freshwater. Hooking into a 30 pound rockfish in either water type will test your skills and be a memorable experience. If you want to learn more about these fish and how to catch them, check out our blog How to Catch Striped Bass. If you’d rather get in on the action, you can always book a trip with one of our guides.