Hybrid striped bass (HSB), a cross between a saltwater striped bass, and a freshwater white bass is a popular cultivar in North Carolina. Currently, NC is home to 14 HSB foodfish producers, three of which also producer fingerlings, or stocker fish. In 2012, 2.1 million pounds of HSB were produced, in addition to more than four million fingerlings. The NC HSB industry is dominated by pond production, with 633 total pond acres. In addition, one tank-based recirculating operation started production in 2011. The combined farm-gate value of both foodfish and fingerlings in 2012 was approximately $9.5 million, not including multipliers.
The HSB industry in NC uses a phase production technique, whereby small fingerlings are produced during Phase I, larger, advanced-stage fingerlings are produced during Phase II, and final marketable foodfish are produced during Phase III. HSB can be produced using males and females of both species, however, NC has traditionally used the reciprocal cross, also called sunshine bass, consisting of a female white bass crossed with a male striped bass.
Phase I production consists of gathering and spawning brood fish, fry production and pond stocking, and harvest of small fingerlings. Female white bass are obtained from lakes in Tennessee, or from the national striped bass breeding program at the North Carolina State University Pamlico Aquaculture Field Lab (NCSU-PAFL), and stripped-spawned (eggs are manually squeezed from the abdomen of the fish into a container). Male striped bass, obtained from NCSU-PAFL are also stripped of their milt, and mixed with the eggs. Fertilized eggs are placed in hatching jars, and hatchlings are stocked into fertilized ponds. Thirty to forty-five day old fingerlings are removed from the ponds, graded in raceways (rectangular tanks), and trained to feed on a commercially manufactured fish diet. Phase II production follows, whereby Phase I fingerlings are stocking into 3-5 acre ponds for production up to ½ pound per fish. Lastly, these fish are re-graded, then stocked into final growout ponds until final harvest.
HSB production in NC has thrived because of the land and water available for fish production. Specifically, the industry is centered around areas with land of suitable clay content for pond construction, and large amounts of high quality well water. HSB are cultured in freshwater in NC, however, the success of culture is dependent upon water with high hardness and alkalinity, both readily available in areas of NC. HSB can be grown in mid-saline waters (up to 15 parts per thousand), however, access to saltwater (for a reasonable price) is limited in NC.
HSB produced in NC are sold wholesale both live, and on-ice. There is also a HSB cooperative, The Fish Connection, which wholesales fish that are boxed, on-ice. HSB product from NC is sold mostly to U.S. markets in the Northeast, as well as some markets in Canada. The product has a firm white flesh, and competes well with marine species of similar body form. Future production of HSB in NC is promising, as limited wild harvests of marine fish persist, and product value is maintained or increases.
Other Hybrid Striped Bass Publications
The following articles can be downloaded from the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center’s website:
Hybrid Striped Bass Links
The Culture of Striped Bass and Its Hybrids in Cages