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At Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, N.J., the investigator accepted more papers from Dr. James R. Westman who, in addition to teaching classes as Drs. Merriman and Raney do, was engaged in continuing research into the striper along the New Jersey coast. Dr. Westman added a new word to describe the striper: "He is a challenge fish. Because of his highly selective eating habits, the striper and the fisherman engage in a battle of wits for which the rules are constantly changing. What is true today about the striper's feeding habits may be completely false tomorrow."
Back in New York the investigator remembered another professor. This was a professor (self-appointed) of surf casting. His name was Jerry Jansen, and for three years he had been conducting a school of surf casting on Second Avenue on Manhattan Island.
In his apartment in Greenwich Village, Professor Jansen spoke on his favorite subject: artificial lures. He described the darting and the swimming and the popping plugs and the tin jigs (see pages 48-49) that have been devised to fool the striper. He exhibited his collection. Turning to a young striper addict, 26-year-old Mort Urovsky, a visitor, he invited him to express an opinion.
"Striper fishing," said Mort, "is man attempting to achieve something with self-imposed limitations. You can catch a striper in a net. You can also reach the top of Mount Everest in a helicopter."
"A man," said Mrs. Jansen suddenly from a corner of the room, "looks at a striper in exactly the same way that a woman looks at a mink coat."
A few days later the investigator reeled from a smoke-filled room, his head screaming with striper lore. These things he had read of the striper:
He has other names. The scientists refer to him as Roccus saxatilis, which means, literally, the fish that dwells among rocks. In Maryland and to the south of Maryland he is called rock or rockfish. In the north and on the Pacific coast fishermen call him the striper. Years ago he was also known as greenhead and squid hound.
He has been around longer than the United States of America. In the year 1635 William Wood wrote of him in New England's Prospect: "The basse is one of the best fishes in the country...the way to catch them is with hooke and line; the Fisherman taking a great cod-line, to which he fasteneth a peece of lobster and throwes it into the sea, the fish biting at it he pulls her to him and knockes her on the head with a sticke...."
The striper is found along the Atlantic coast from the St. Lawrence to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Louisiana. In 1879 and 1882 stripers were transplanted over land in tanks to the West Coast and deposited in San Francisco Bay. They thrived and multiplied there and are an important game fish today from southern California to Oregon.
In color, the striper varies from green to steel blue that pales to silver on the sides and to dead white on the belly. Sometimes he has a bronze or brassy look. Always he has seven or eight pronounced dark stripes running from head to tail on the side.