For eight months a year, in wet suit, mask and flippers, Artist-Skin Diver Stanley Meltzoff studies striped bass in murky tidal rivers, bays, inlets and the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. He has ranged from Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod, sometimes spearing fish for dinner, but always observing and recording their wanderings and feeding habits. With the paintings on the following pages Meltzoff presents a diver's year of bass watching, beginning with pods of lethargic wintering fish that hover in a New Jersey tidewater creek (below) and then following the individual schools to their spring and summer haunts along the coast
As the waters warm up in April, lean, ravenous bass head down the rivers to gorge on bunched-up herring off Sea Girt, N.J. (right above). A month later, after spawning in brackish tidal creeks and rivers, most of the bass begin to move up the coast, pausing along the way to hunt for baitfish around seaweed-covered jetties (opposite).
Gleaming with the July sun's reflected rays, a pod of striped bass (above) pursues a school of squid in the rocky waters around Fishers Island, N.Y.
At Hull Cove, R.I. in early summer, bass forage through long streamers of brown kelp, which wave back and forth in the surging white water (right).
Working around some old rotting pilings off Deal, N.J. in August, the stripers pick up shedding calico crabs from the sandy sea bottom (far right).
In the company of stingrays and a sand shark, small school bass search for sand eels and silver-sides in the boulder-strewn waters off Montauk, N.Y. in August.