For most migratory fish, little is known about the location and size of foraging areas or how long individuals remain in foraging areas, even though these attributes may affect their growth, survival, and impact on local prey. We tested whether striped bass (Morone saxatilis Walbaum), found in Massachusetts in summer, were migratory, how long they stayed in non-natal estuaries, whether observed spatial patterns differed from random model predictions, whether fish returned to the same area across multiple years, and whether fishing effort could explain recapture patterns. Anchor tags were attached to striped bass that were caught and released in Massachusetts in 1999 and 2000, and recaptured between 1999 and 2007. In fall, tagged striped bass were caught south of where they were released in summer, confirming that fish were coastal migrants. In the first summer, 77% and 100% of the recaptured fish in the Great Marsh and along the Massachusetts coast, respectively, were caught in the same place where they were released. About two thirds of all fish recaptured near where they were released were caught 2-7 years after tagging. Our study shows that smaller (400-500 mm total length) striped bass migrate hundreds of kilometers along the Atlantic Ocean coast, cease their mobile lifestyle in summer when they use a relatively localized area for foraging (<20 km2), and return to these same foraging areas in subsequent years.
Additional publication details
Use of non-natal estuaries by migratory striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in summer