This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
OF the many game fishes which swim the salt or brackish waters of the eastern coast of the United States, the Striped Bass seems to have claimed more of the attention of the angler than any other.
Many clubs have been formed, and thousands of dollars spent in fitting them up; islands have been bought outright, and rocky points utilized, by building out jetties on solid iron stanchions, for the purpose of affording angling sites for this silver-sided racer. In fact, he has given his name to most of the tackle used by anglers on the coast. If in northern waters we are fishing for the Sheepshead, the Bluefish, the Weakfish, or the Kingfish, or in Florida waters for the Red-fish or the enormous Tarpon, we use the Bass-rod, the Bass-reel, the fine cable-laid linen thread line known as the Bass-line, and the hooks commonly known as Bass-hooks.
There is a most interesting uncertainty in angling which constitutes its great charm; you know not whether your cast will attract a minnow or a whale, and this is perhaps better exhibited in angling for the Striped Bass than for any other fish, for in many of his haunts you cannot know whether you will strike a fish of half a pound or one of sixty pounds. As an instance, on a visit to the Cuttyhunk Club, on one of the Elizabeth islands of that name, having a reputation, as all the islands have, for the large size of the Bass caught on their rocky shores, I saw on the records that one of the members had caught an unprecedentedly small Bass weighing two pounds. This gentleman evidently had a knowledge of some wicked game of which we know nothing whatever, for opposite th^ record he had written "Low."
If I remember rightly, the largest fish caught that day weighed some forty-odd pounds, and the two-pounder is still good for "Low"-whatever that may mean.
Storer, in his "Synopsis of Fishes of North America," describes the Bass as follows:
Cylindrical, tapering; the upper part of the body of a silvery-brown color, the lower part of the sides and abdomen of a beautiful clear silver color; eight or more longitudinal black bands on each side, commencing just back of the opercula, the upper bands running the whole length of the fish, the lower ones terminating just above the anal fin.
I will add to this that on large specimens the stripes are of a beautiful purplish blue, when fresh from the water, fading to a slate-color on exposure to the air, and later, as the scales become dry, to a light brown.
His scientific names are many. DeKay remarks, in a tone of mild sarcasm: "This species, it will be noticed, has had the fortune to receive many names." Dr. Mitchill, who was unacquainted with the labors of his predecessors, imposed upon this species, with characteristic simplicity, his own name.
The Hon. Robert B. Roosevelt, a sound writer on all matters pertaining to the rod and gun, in speaking of the Babellike confusion which exists in the popular names of birds and fishes, remarks: "To make matters worse, the scientific gentlemen have stepped in, and after indulging in plenty of bad Latin, have added fresh English appellations more unmeaning and less appropriate, if possible, than the common ones."
The following list of scientific names of the Striped Bass requires no comment:
Roccus Stiiatus. Roccus Lineatus.
Perca Mitchelli interrupta.
Sciixna Lineata. Centropome Raye. Le Bar Raye.
There are but two common names by which this fish is known throughout the extended region where he is found- they are: Striped Bass, north of Philadelphia, and Rockfish, frequently abbreviated to Rock, at and south of that city. And even these two names sometimes give rise to confusion. A friend who was about to visit Admiral -, in Maryland, he packing his dress-coat and other "duds," and I lazily smoking and watching his proceedings-asked whether it was worth while to take his rod and reel with him. I replied, "Do so by all means; you will have time to go fishing in the interval of your social engagements, and will find plenty of Striped Bass and Bluefish." On his return he told me that he was informed that "there were no fish to be caught there but 'Rock' and 'Taylors,' and only the niggers fished for them;" whereupon he fired off some choice explosives in ancient Sanscrit, or Phoenician, or Volapuk, directed at me. On the day that he left for home he discovered accidentally that the "Rock" was his favorite, the Striped Bass, and the "Taylor" the Bluefish. Then, poetically speaking, he danced in his wrath, and tore his hair, and gnashed his teeth, and wept bitterly.
"A Key into the Language of America, or an Help to the Language of the Natives in that part of America called New England, London, 1643, by Roger Williams," gives the Indian name of the fish, "Missuckeke"-Bass-and says: "The Indians (and the English too) make a dainty dish of the head of this, and well they may, the brains and fat of it being very much, and sweet as marrow "
It is unnecessary to say that there is little probability of this name becoming common, though it is quite as descriptive as some of the scientific appellations.
Of rhe two popular names, Striped Bass seems the more appropriate, as it is descriptive of the fish, and not of the bottom on which they are sometimes, but not always, found; and by this name they are best known in the region where they are pursued most successfully, as well as most artistically, by the angler.
Although the habitat of the Striped Bass is extended, they are found in greater numbers between Chesapeake Bay and Cape Cod than in any other part of their geographical range. Along the coast of this favored region, and in the numerous bays and inlets by which it is indented, they are caught in immense numbers by the seine fishermen, and sent to the New York and other markets. Even the sandy beaches of Long Island and New Jersey are made to furnish their quota of the fish-food required to provision the great cities.