Speaking of Sizes

by Frank Daignault

(An excerpt from Striper Surf published by the Globe Pequot Press)

A number of factors will influence the weight of a given striper. This weight becomes a function of length and girth. While length naturally extends with age, and females usually outlive males, girth tends to follow seasonal lines. Spring or early summer bass tend to be drawn down both from spawning and migration during a season when feeding opportunities have been leaner.

Fall stripers, on the other hand, probably have not been traveling as far in the waters of the striper coast. They have recovered of course from the rigors of their leanest season, feeding heartily all summer. And the sea in autumn is as much a lush garden of predatory opportunity as is the land. As a consequence most of the big fish that you will encounter will be well fed, and some will have gorged heavily on bait.

For the discussion to be complete, we must also take into account that there are variations in individual physiology where some fish tend to be slim, while others are more girthy in their natural build. Over the years I have heard of outlandish striper girths that raised the fish’s weight and sent its appearance askew, but I have not seen many. Conversely, in the weighing of hundreds of big fish, including those of others, I have seen many particularly long and slim ones, usually called "racers", that should have weighed much more than they did. They often evoked a measure of outrage from the angler who engaged them in hard fought battles. Experiences such as catching linesides over 50 inches long that weighed in the 40s when the surfcaster thought the fish should have weighed 50 pounds -- a highly celebrated mark -- or taking slim 50-pound-plus fish that with an appropriate girth would have scaled 60 pounds, had fishermen groaning about "the breaks" and kicking the tires of their buggy.

Still, the lion’s share of big fish usually ends up being pretty average in their proportions. The commonly known rule of an inch per pound in stripers is quite accurate but limited to average-build fish right around the 50-pound mark. Way larger or smaller than that the rule isn’t any good.

The widely known formula -- length x girth (squared) divided by 800 -- is astoundingly accurate in determining striper weights of all sizes.

A. Big stripers like this one can be over 20 years old. Problem is that not enough were born and too few survived.