State fish. The striped bass, or ocean rockfish (Morone saxatilis), became the official state fish in legislation signed by Governor John C. West on June 2, 1972. It is one of America’s most popular game fish. Anglers appreciate the striper’s large size and fierce nature, and it is a table delicacy. Rockfish are caught year-round in South Carolina, being most plentiful in the state’s rivers during the spring spawning season.
The mature fish often weighs 25 to 30 pounds. The largest recorded catch was 125 pounds, with a maximum length of six feet. The rockfish is pink or brown with a silver belly and seven or eight longitudinal stripes on the sides. Stripers eat shrimp, crab, and smaller fish. The fish is anadromous–that is, an ocean fish that spawns inland in freshwater. However, it adapts easily to a freshwater environment and can live and successfully reproduce in inland rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Since the 1940s stripers have proliferated in Lakes Moultrie and Marion of the Santee Cooper system.
The striped bass was highly valued as a food fish by English colonists, beginning in the seventeenth century, from Maine to Georgia. In the colonial era bass were caught mainly in the Atlantic with nets. By the nineteenth century fly fishermen were landing them, and the fish became a popular catch for sportsmen. In the nineteenth century Americans introduced stripers to Pacific coast waters and western rivers. During the 1950s they were introduced into inland lakes and reservoirs nationwide. Popularity led to overfishing, threatening the population and bringing federal legislation to limit catches in order to save the species.
Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Fishes, Whales, and Dolphins. New York: Knopf, 1983.
Hogan, Austin. “The Historic Striped Bass–A Brief Introduction.” American Fly Fisher 2, no. 3 (1975): 7–8.
Wongrey, Jan. “The Fish That Made a State Famous.” South Carolina Wildlife 18 (May–June 1971): 8–10.
Yates, Nancy. “It’s Official: A State Animal and Fish.” Sandlapper 6 (January 1973): 36–39.