Striped bass research

Massachusetts is home to the one of the largest striped bass fisheries in the country. DMF uses monitoring programs to support regional management.
Striped bass with tag

The striped bass fishery is very important for recreational and commercial fishermen. Atlantic states that harvest striped bass are required to characterize their landings as part of the interstate management process. The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) does this through long-term monitoring of age, size, and sex of landings. DMF also tags striped bass to better understand their distribution.

In addition to ongoing sampling and monitoring programs, DMF has completed special projects that more effectively help us manage the species.

Long-term monitoring

DMF characterizes commercial and recreational catch to estimate population structure. Information on length, weight, sex, and scales are collected. Each year, we receive information and samples from about 400-800 commercially caught and roughly 1,200-2,000 recreationally caught striped bass. Samples come from seafood dealers and from Sportfish Angler Data Collection Team volunteers. Our age and growth laboratory uses the growth rings on scales to estimate age composition of catch and rates of growth.

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Tagging studies

Striped Bass Hook and Release Studies

Being a state with a world-class striped bass fishery, Massachusetts DMF has initiated a study that will look at the benefit of using circle hooks in the striped bass fishery using cutting-edge acoustic telemetry technology.  Studies have proven that circle hooks dramatically reduce the instance of gut-hooked fish over the use of traditional J-hooks, thus reducing release mortality.

DMF’s team of biologists externally tagged 175 striped bass with accelerometer transmitters, caught using dead and live bait using both circle and J-hooks. These specialized tags sense ‘tail beats’ from the fish within an array of recievers, informing researchers if the fish is alive, dead, been preyed upon, or left the area where the tags are being monitored. 

Although understanding the conservation benefit of circle hooks is an important question, it is only the first step that DMF is taking to improve the science and management for striped bass. Starting in 2021, a similar study will be conducted comparing alternate hook types typically used on artificial lures, mainly single hooks that are typically found on jigs or flies, versus treble hooks that are used on swimming and surface plugs. The intent is to have an updated and robust mortality rate estimate that can be used in substitute to the 1996 Diodati Hook and Release Mortality estimate.

Cooperative tagging program

Since 1991, DMF has participated in the Striped Bass Cooperative State‐Federal Coast‐wide Tagging Study. This study is the primary data source for the es­timation of mortality and coast-wide migration rates of Massachusetts tagged striped bass. Striped bass are tagged with a pink internal-anchor tag that has a sequential tag number and toll-free phone line printed on it. Over 10,000 striped bass have been tagged in this ongoing study and fish have been recaptured as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Ocracoke Inlet, NC.

Acoustic tagging

In addition to the conventional tagging study, acoustic tags have helped us study the movement of striped bass in Massachusetts waters. We examine how mortality relates to habitat selection and migratory route. We track the movements of tagged striped bass with acoustic receivers in Boston Harbor, off Cape Cod, around Falmouth, in Vineyard Sound, and Buzzards Bay.

We are collaborating with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Montana, and University of New Brunswick St. John to develop genetic tools to analyze genetically-derived population estimates. The creation of a genetic population baseline for striped bass will help us establish spawning population-specific mortality rates for striped bass. If you catch a striped bass with a small red tag on its belly, it means there is an acoustic transmitter in its gut cavity and to contact DMF.

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Special Projects

DMF is always working to learn more about striped bass and their environment. Read about some of our previous projects.

Striped bass monitoring reports

Our annual striped bass monitoring reports since 2000 can be found on our technical report webpage.