Striped Bass

Illustration by Duane Raver
(Enlarge Image)

Scientific Name: Morone saxatilis

Classification:  Game Fish

Abundance: Coastal rivers during spring spawning runs, and stocked in reservoirs throughout NC.

Species Profile  (pdf)


Striped bass (Photo by Thomas Harvey/NCWRC)

Striped bass collected from and returned to Roanoke River (Photo by NCWRC)

Striped bass freshwater fish state record (66 lbs, from Hiwassee Reservoir by Tyler Shields; 3/31/2012)



Additional Information

The striped bass is a silver-white fish with seven to eight horizontal black stripesalong its sides. Its back is often greenish-blue and its underside white. Its large silver scales shine when held in the sunlight. The striped bass has two separate fins, known as dorsal fins, along its back. The front dorsal fin has a series of nine spines, whereas the second dorsal fin has one spine with a series of soft fin rays. There are two spines on the gill cover and two narrow tooth patches on the tongue. Most adult striped bass are 1 to 3 feet long and weigh 2 to 20 pounds.

Striped bass are anadromous fish, meaning they spend most of their lives living in saltwater but migrate into freshwater rivers to spawn. The striped bass prefers to spawn among the rocky rapids near the “fall line” where rivers make the transition from the hilly piedmont to the relatively flat coastal plain. The Roanoke River is the major striped bass spawning river in North Carolina. Each spring, adult striped bass swim from the Atlantic Ocean andAlbemarle Sound into the Roanoke River to spawn, about 130 miles fromthe sound.Most striped bass spawning begins when the water temperature reaches 62ºF. As many as 20 male stripers surround a single female, releasing milt tofertilize the eggs released by the female. Spawning events occur near the surface and are often called rockfights; a large group of striped bass, which are also known as rock or rockfish, splashing around can create a dramaticcommotion. After spawning, the semi-buoyant fertilized eggs must drift in the water for two or three days before they hatch. During this time, there must be enough flow in the river to keep the eggs afloat or they will sink to the river bottom and be covered by sediment. After hatching, young striped bass (called yolk-sac larvae) are carried by currents to nursery areas in the lower Roanoke River and western Albemarle Sound. For the first seven to 14 days, they live by getting energy from their yolk-sac (formerly the yolk portion of their egg). After their yolk-sac is used up, striped bass larvae feed on tiny water animals known as zooplankton. By the time they are 2 months old, striped bass are 1 to 2 inches long and begin feeding on small fish. Stripers spawned in the Roanoke River generally spend two to four years of their lives maturing in the Albemarle Sound before returning to spawn in the Roanoke River. Because they can live over 20 years, adult stripers may migrate many times from the Atlantic Ocean through the Albemarle Sound and to the Roanoke River to spawn during their life span.

In addition to these native migratory populations, the Commission stocks striped bass into many reservoirs in the state, where food and habitat are adequate. Striped bass stocked into these reservoirs are not able to reproduce naturally; populations are maintained through stockings. Learn more by reading the Striped bass species profile.


Striped bass are anadromous fish found in both inland and coastal waters.

The following fishing regulations are effective Aug. 1 of each year.

Inland Fishing Regulations
Regulatory authority between the Wildlife Resources Commission and Division of Marine Fisheries. Inland game fish regulations include Manner of Taking, Seasons and Using Trotlines and Set-hooks.

Warmwater Game Fish
Game fish size and creel limits. Also, Bass and Morone (striped bass) Identification Charts.

For coastal fishing regulations, visit the Division of Marine Fisheries' website.

Fishing Tips:

Live and cut baits, such as gizzard shad, threadfin shad and hickory shad, are popular in coastal rivers. Bucktail jigs in white and yellow, spoons and rattling crankbaits are also effective. Large flies are popular among anglers during the spring in the Roanoke River. Stripers move in schools, and all members tend to feed at the same time. Reservoir striped bass are more active feeders at night so anglers should fish for them in low-light conditions and/or at night.

Places to Fish:

The Roanoke River striped bass run occurs from March through May and is the most popular native striped bass fishery in the state. Anglers can also catch stripers in other coastal rivers during this time of year. Striped bass fisheries are actively managed in 13 reservoirs throughout the Piedmont and foothills of North Carolina. Lake Gaston, Lake Norman and Badin Lake are three of the most popular.