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Atlantic coast feeding habits of striped bass: A synthesis supporting a coast-wide understanding of trophic biology

January 1, 2003

The recent increase in the Atlantic coast population of striped bass, Morone saxatilis (Walbaum), prompted managers to re-evaluate their predatory impact. Published and unpublished diet data for striped bass on the Atlantic Coast of North America were examined for geographical, ontogenetic and seasonal patterns in the diet and to assess diet for this species. Diets of young-of-the-year (YOY) striped bass were similar across the Upper Atlantic (UPATL), Chesapeake and Delaware Bays (CBDEL) and North Carolina (NCARO) areas of the Atlantic coast where either fish or mysid shrimp dominate the diet. For age one and older striped bass, cluster analysis partitioned diets based on predominance of either Atlantic menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus (Latrobe), characteristic of striped bass from the CBDEL and NCARO regions, or non-menhaden fishes or invertebrates, characteristic of fish from the UPATL, in the diet. The predominance of invertebrates in the diets of striped bass in the UPATL region can be attributed to the absence of several important species groups in Northern waters, particularly sciaenid fishes, and to the sporadic occurrences of Atlantic menhaden to UPATL waters. In all regions, across most seasons and in most size classes of striped bass, the clupeiod fishes; menhaden, anchovies (Anchoa spp.) and river herrings (Alosa spp,) and Atlantic herring, Clupea harengus L., dominated the diets of striped bass above the first year of life.