Known as Rockfish here in Maryland (a name given to the fish for hunting above the Chesapeake Bay’s rocky oyster beds), striped bass are a sought-after trophy fish up and down the Atlantic seaboard. As Maryland’s official State Fish, we love our Rockfish. The Chesapeake Bay is a spawning ground for the Atlantic Ocean’s striped bass, bringing in some of the biggest trophy fish during their yearly run. Schools of world-class striped bass inundate the estuary each spring, bringing with them some of the world’s best fishermen to the spring tournaments. However impressive the spring spawning season may be, rockfish are year-round residents. If you’re looking for a fish that will put up a good fight and please your taste buds at the end of the day, Maryland’s Rockfish are what you’re after.
Striped bass are silvery fish that get their name from the seven or eight dark, continuous stripes along the side of their bodies. The body is compressed, and the dorsal fins are well separated. The caudal fin is forked, olive green, blue, or black dorsally. On the Atlantic coast, striped bass range from the St. Lawrence River in Canada all the way to the St. Johns River in Florida - although they are most prevalent from Maine to North Carolina.
Striped bass tend to move north to near shore waters of the New England coast during the summer and south to the North Carolina/Virginia Capes during the winter. The east coast migratory population is composed of three major stocks - Hudson, Chesapeake, and Roanoke. The striped bass stock within the Chesapeake Bay is composed of pre-migratory fish, primarily ages ten and younger, and coastal migratory striped bass ranging in age from two to more than thirty years old. Mature resident and migratory striped bass move into tidal freshwater in early spring to spawn. After spawning, migratory fish return to the coast. Most spend the summer and early fall months in middle New England near shore waters. During the late fall and early winter, coastal striped bass migrate south to winter off the North Carolina/Virginia Capes.
The recreational record for Chesapeake Bay striped bass is 67 pounds, 8 ounces, though the largest recorded striped bass was a 125 pound female caught on the North Carolina coast in 1891. The current Maryland Chesapeake Bay record striped bass is 67 lbs., 8 oz. Striped bass tagged in the Chesapeake Bay have been recaptured in Canadian waters over 1,000 miles away.
Looking for the perfect fishing spot?
Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.