Striped Bass

The striped bass is an anadromous species which migrates upstream into freshwater each spring to spawn. Information regarding its historical abundance and spawning populations in the Taunton River is virtually nonexistent.

Striped Bass are abundant in the lower tidal portion of the Taunton and are a popular game fish. Today they appear to be occasional visitors to the upper river and the Nemasket. Their presence here has been confirmed by fish surveys performed by Steve Hurley the regional biologist for Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

In regards to their historic abundance, about all we have been able to find is the following excerpt from Edward Winslows  journey down the Taunton in 1621.

"Being willing to hasten our journey, we went ; and came thither at sunsetting ; where we found many of the Namascheucks, they so calling the men of Namaschet, fishing upon a ware [wear]*, which they had made on a river which belonged to them ; where they caught abundance of bass".

This weir was located in the Titicut section of the river on the Middleboro Bridgewater town lines. In 1621 there would have been no Large or Smallmouth Bass in these parts. They were introduced at a later date. Therefore they must be referring to Striped Bass. The date of this account is sometime between June 10, and July 2,  this would be close to the time of year when Striped Bass would be spawning in the fresh water rivers of this latitude. The fact that the Namacchet's were able to catch the striped bass in abundance by hand (nets or spears we assume) indicates that the river had a a significant population of striped bass at and before the time of European contact.

Today the primary breeding area for the striped bass is in the rivers feeding Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson River. Although the striped bass has been extensively researched and studied in these regions there is a significant lack of information regarding its historic abundance and spawning habitat north of the Hudson River. We know that the Kennebec River in Maine once had, and now since the removal of the Edwards Dam, once again supports spawning populations of stripers. Did our other big New England rivers, the Charles, Penobscot, Connecticut, Merrimack, Saco, Androscoggin have spawning populations? How many striped bass did the Taunton and these larger rivers produce? It would be a very worthwhile research project to try to determine how significant the contributions of our northern rivers were to the historic coastal striped bass populations.

For more info on the Striped Bass go Here

 

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