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Enjoy Summer's Sunshine Bass

by Bob Papson
Principal Fisheries Biologist
August 1, 2005

Now that we're in the midst of the summer season and water temperatures are at their highest levels, the fishing for a number of species can really slow down. Not so for the hybrid striped bass, affectionately known as the "Sunshine Bass" in the southern part of the country. This cross between a striped bass and a white bass, raised at the division's Hackettstown Hatchery, can tolerate warm water and are quite active at temperatures up to 81oF.

The large warm water lakes and reservoirs in which they are currently stocked, i.e. Lake Hopatcong and Spruce Run and Manasquan Reservoirs, are well suited to this pelagic fish. Hybrids thrive in open water where they search for and feed on alewife herring and gizzard shad.

The striped bass hybrid is fast growing, reaching the legal size of 16 inches before age 3. They can attain weights of over 10 pounds in New Jersey waters and only a short life span (up to 7 years) keeps them from reaching striper size. The typical hybrid caught from our waters weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. They are a hard hitting and strong fighting fish.

Youngster with large bass
Youngster with 8-lb. hybrid bass.
Click to enlarge

Summer is probably the most productive period for striped bass hybrids and August seems to be the most productive month according to anglers at Spruce Run Reservoir. Being an open water species, the hybrid can be found throughout the deeper areas of the lake. However, during this period they are easier to locate as they are confined to the upper water column as a result of low oxygen levels in the deeper depths. During summer stratification they can be found suspended just above the thermocline in depths from 12 to 18 feet depending on which lake you fish. The shallower end of this range at Spruce Run Reservoir and the deeper end at Lake Hopatcong.
Angler with two bass
Lake Hopatcong is a hybrid hotspot!
Click to enlarge
They can be caught any time of the day but early morning and a couple of hours before sunset are prime. Near sunset and after dark they may be found chasing herring on the surface. Night fishing can be fast and furious if you are lucky enough to be in hearing distance of hybrids on a feeding frenzy of surfacing herring that make the water boil.

There are several simple and popular techniques for fishing hybrid striped bass. One is drifting or anchoring and using live bait (herring or shiners) with an egg sinker, slip bobber or live-lined. Another is flatline or down-rigger trolling minnow style crank baits, herring or shiners. This is very effective and covers a larger area. These baits or lures are generally fished just above the thermocline during the summer. Casting crank baits to areas of feeding fish, especially at night, can be very exciting and rewarding. Shoreline anglers are not left out of the summerís hybrid action. Bottom fishing using night crawlers or chicken livers can be quite successful.

As the summer's sun is setting the sunshine bass are rising. Now is the time to enjoy the excellent striped bass hybrid fishing opportunities offered at Lake Hopatcong, Spruce Run and Manasquan Reservoirs.


Striped bass hybrid Information
Striped Bass Hybrid Fact Sheet (pdf, 20kb)
Warm and Coolwater Fish Stocked, 2004 (pdf, 30kb)

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Last Updated: August 2, 2005