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Striped bass in excess of 100 pounds have been documented in the past, but do they currently exist today?
By Toby Lapinski
This FAKE image was augmented by the Dave Anderson to show what a world record striper might look like. Again, this image was produced simply to represent what a fish of the caliber discussed in the article might look like.

And what of the future possibility of these super fish being present in our waters? Well, first off you need some fish to survive to adulthood, navigating the many hooks, nets, spears, predators and other forces at work against their survival to reach such impressive size. How long might it take? Science tells us that it takes roughly 18 years for a striped bass to reach the 50-inch mark, a length which—aside from outlandishly fat fish—is the lower limit for a fish of 50 pounds. A fish of 52 inches can range from 45 pounds on up to 70-plus pounds and is about 19 years old. The current world record of 81 pounds, 14 ounces measured 54 inches, and that length is generally associated with fish of 20 years old. We do not have any data on those aforementioned 100-plus-pounders regarding their age, but unless they were stuffed to the gills with bunker, I’d have to guess they come in around the 25- to 30-year old mark.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2017 young-of-the-year striped bass survey in the Chesapeake Bay was just released in early October, and this year’s index came in at 13.2 fish, slightly above the 64-year average of 11.7. The survey is conducted annually to track the reproductive success of striped bass and help predict future abundance. The index represents the average number of young-of-year striped bass—those less than 1 year old—captured in 132 samples. Over the past 10 years we have seen three annual indexes above the average, occurring in 2011 (34.6), 2015 (24.2) and 2017. The remaining seven years saw an average index of just 5.21 (3.2, 7.87, 5.58, 0.89, 5.75, 11.02, and 2.20.) Now while these numbers do not tell the entire story, as a large group of fish can be wiped out by environmental factors thereby nullifying a strong reproductive year, in the very least they provide an idea of just how many fish started out the race to 100 pounds. In other words, it provides a baseline.

Getting back on track and looking at the positive reproductive years of 2011, 2015 and now 2017, one could argue that there is a pretty good base stock of fish which have the chance of achieving 100 pounds or more by roughly the years 2036 through 2042. As this timeframe puts me into my early 60’s, I need to rely on some slightly early year classes, most notably the highest ever recorded which occurred in 1996 (59.4.) I’ll add into the mix the years 1993 (39.8) and 2001 (50.8) as they “come to age” between 2016 and 2031.

While we can never truly know exactly what swims in our local waters, these rumors, young-of-the-year numbers and speculation of possible monster fish do one thing for certain: they keep many of us at the game forgoing sleep for the chance to tangle with such a massive beast. Will it happen? I am sure at some point in time it will as their existence, while very limited, has been proven over time. Who will land such a fish and where it will be caught is anyone’s guess, but I can assure you of one thing: I will be doing my part track her down.

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