Whiterock Bass (Morone saxatilis x Morone chrysops)

Whiterock Bass (Morone saxatilis x Morone chrysops)

Hybrid striped bass have become one of the most popular introduced fish in freshwater. Hybrid stripers are the progeny of one pure-strain striped bass parent and one purestrain white bass parent. When the cross is between the female striper and the male white bass, the result is primarily known as a whiterock bass; in some places it is referred to as a wiper and in some simply as a hybrid striped bass. When the cross is between the male striper and the female white bass, it is called a sunshine bass (primarily in Florida) or simply a hybrid striped bass.

These fish, which usually look like stockier versions of pure-strain stripers, are aggressive and hard-fighting fish that provide great sport. The fact that they are so strong and grow fairly large rather quickly endears them to anglers, not to mention that they can be a more ambitious lure and bait consumer than pure stripers.

Hybrid stripers do not occur in saltwater; they are strictly a freshwater phenomenon. In freshwater, whiterock or sunshine bass may crossbreed naturally in the wild, although this is not the norm. Most hybrid stripers existing in freshwater lakes and rivers are the result of state fish-stocking programs.

Like both of its parents, the whiterock or the sunshine bass is good table fare, and its flesh is virtually indistinguishable from that of the parent fish.


Identification

This fish looks like a stockier version of the striped bass, usually having a shorter length and greater girth but with very similar coloration. The primary means of distinguishing the whiterock or the sunshine bass is by the less distinct and interrupted or broken lines along its sides.

The lateral lines of the parent fish are unbroken. Hybrid stripers (and pure-strain stripers) can be distinguished from white bass by the tooth patterns on their tongues. The white bass has a single broad U-pattern, while the striper has two distinctive elongated tooth patches.

The accompanying illustration shows the distinguishing characteristics. It is important to learn the differences between these fish when angling in waters that may contain all three species, as regulations regarding them may differ.

Size/Age

Whiterock and sunshine bass have an extremely fast growth rate in their early stages. Specimens that have been stocked as inch-long fish have grown to 4 inches in just 1 month, and 15 inches by their second summer, so they quickly attain sizes of angling interest. When 18 inches long, a hybrid striper will weigh at least 3 pounds and possibly as much as 5 pounds.

Their maximum attainable size is uncertain, although they grow much larger than a white bass and are much smaller than a pure-strain striped bass. The all-tackle world-record hybrid striped bass is a 25-pound, 15-ounce Alabama fish.

Life history/Behavior

These elements are essentially the same as for the parent species, including spring spawning runs, open-water migrations, schooling, and baitfish-pillaging tendencies. One difference with whiterock and sunshine bass is that when planted in lakes with no other related species with which to interbreed, they can be controlled entirely through stocking programs.

Unlike many hybrid fish, which are sterile, these specimens are fertile fish; however, they can reproduce only if they cross with a pure-strain parent. But in lakes where neither pure-strain stripers nor white bass are present (usually in northern states), fisheries managers have stocked hybrid striped bass with the comfort of knowing that the fish wouldn’t expand beyond the numbers stocked. Thus, if the fish proved detrimental to baitfish or other game species, they could be eradicated by discontinuing stocking.

Food and feeding habits

The food preferences and the feeding habits of these fish are similar to those of freshwater striped bass and white bass.

Distribution

Hybrid striped bass distribution is limited to freshwater and to places with a good population of baitfish, principally members of the herring family. Nevertheless, stocking programs have resulted in plantings of these fish in lakes and reservoirs in more than 30 states, from California to New York and from Nebraska to Florida. The greatest concentration is throughout the southern half of the country, and the most fishing opportunities are in the Southeast.

Habitat

Whiterock and sunshine bass inhabit the same freshwater habitats as their parents, primarily large lakes and reservoirs, but they also thrive in midsize to large rivers and occasionally in small lakes or ponds.

They are largely nomadic in those environments and are found in the same places as their parents, sometimes commingling with them, mostly in open-water environs or in the tailrace below dams. They are seldom found near shore or docks or piers, except when chasing schools of baitfish.
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