The Striper Migration: When Will the Bass Return?

Each year is different, and the exact timing seems to be strongly influenced by water temperatures along the Atlantic coast.

2019 striper migration

Every winter, anticipation builds for the arrival of migrating striped bass. Each year is different, and exact timing seems to be strongly influenced by water temperatures along the Atlantic coast.

By tracking fishing reports from charter captains, contributors, and readers at OnTheWater.com, we have been mapping the striped bass spring migration from the Mid-Atlantic to Maine since 2015. Each year has been very different and provided some interesting insight into the timing of the striper migration.
 

2015: A historically snowy and cold winter kept water temperatures cool well into the spring, delaying the striped bass migration and resulting in later arrivals than most fishermen could recall in recent history. Yet, by mid-June, big striped bass were reported from the Jersey Shore to southern Maine.

2016: A strong El Nino blessed the East Coast with a mild winter, and the migration got off to an early start. Big bass appeared in Raritan Bay by mid-April, and fresh schoolie stripers arrived early to New England. However, by June, the maps for 2015 and 2016 looked almost identical.



2017: Bitter cold weather in March delayed the striper spawn in the Chesapeake and slowed the start of the migration. In mid-May, big post-spawn bass showed up off northern New Jersey to chow down on bunker. Remarkably, schools of bass, including many fish over 30 pounds, arrived in Cape Cod waters earlier than usual, and it seemed as if large numbers of fish bypassed Long Island waters.

2018: Another cold spring delayed the striper spawn and had many anglers lamenting that the migration was running about two weeks behind schedule. While this meant a slow start in parts of Cape Cod and Massachusetts, it also meant a longer spring season for anglers in Western Long Island Sound and off Long Island’s South Shore.

When the ocean-run stripers arrive this season, do what they do: dodge the crowds on the jetties and head for the back bays and estuaries.
When the ocean-run stripers arrive this season, do what they do: dodge the crowds on the jetties and head for the back bays and estuaries. Learn more at Plugging For Back Bay Bass and Back Bay Kayak Trolling For Stripers

What Will 2019 Bring?

We’re excited to find out, and invite you to follow along as we track the Striper Migration. You can help by contributing to our weekly map updates—simply share your striper fishing reports and photos through Instagram, Facebook, or at OnTheWater.com.

Sign Up For The 2019 Striper Cup!

Bass Migration Basics

Striped bass are anadromous—they live their adult lives in the ocean but migrate into brackish bays and freshwater rivers to spawn. On the East Coast, there are three major spawning grounds: the tributaries of Chesapeake Bay, upper Delaware Bay/Delaware River, and the Hudson River in New York.

Smaller striped bass (schoolies) are the first to arrive along the coast in spring. This is because smaller, immature striped bass bypass the spawning grounds on their way north. Male striped bass reach sexual maturity at two or three years of age (at approximately 16 to 20 inches of length), and female striped bass mature at four to six years of age (at approximately 24 to 28 inches of length).

East Coast striped bass three major spawning grounds
East Coast striped bass have three major spawning grounds: the tributaries of Chesapeake Bay, upper Delaware Bay/Delaware River, and the Hudson River in New York.

The timing of the arrival of larger striped bass, the 28-inch-plus spawning fish, depends on the timing of the spring spawn. Spawning takes place earliest in Chesapeake Bay, as striped bass move from their wintering grounds off North Carolina and Virginia into the Bay in mid-March. Spawning is slightly later in the Delaware River, taking place in early April, and a few weeks later in the Hudson River, typically mid- to late April.

Through tagging studies, scientists have found that individuals from different spawning stocks tend to exhibit different migration habits. The Chesapeake Bay spawning areas produce most coastal migratory striped bass (estimated 70-90%), and fish hatched in the Chesapeake Bay exhibit more extensive migrations. Those that hatch in the Hudson River generally do not migrate beyond Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to the north and Cape May, New Jersey, to the south. Every winter, anticipation builds for the arrival of migrating striped bass. Each year is different, and exact timing seems to be strongly influenced by water temperatures along the Atlantic coast.

21 thoughts on “The Striper Migration: When Will the Bass Return?

  1. Jared

    Great work! Would be awesome if you guys followed the fall migration to help out the guys in VA. The only ones I’ve seen cover seeping/summer

  2. Rodster

    We’re still getting big ones in the Bay of Fundy. The US migrants will likely depart soon, as will the locals. Tags show Chesapeake fish still around.

  3. Frank Diaz

    Hopefully the migration is sooner than later. Been a tough winter not making money. I’ll be hunting and selling these fish as soon as they arrive!

      1. Cam

        What’s wrong with keeping fish, as long as you don’t kill them for no reason, I keep my catch all the time

  4. mark macneill

    Frank Diaz…catch and release bud. Mc Donalds is hiring bro.

  5. LOU

    DONT FORGET TO BUY A YETI BUCKET FOR $ 875.00 . HOW STUPID YOU HAVE TO BE TO BUY ONE OF THOSE BUCKETS. OH YEA, GET A YETI COFFEE CUP WHILE YOURE AT IT THEYRE ONLY $ 92.00. DAAAAAA

    1. Christopher Hayden

      Lou,
      A yeti coffe mug keeps my coffee hot for hours. It’ll hold ice for 24 hours. It’s worth the $26 I spent on it. The Yeti coolers on my boat keep ice four 4 days in the summer.

    2. Bill

      We got a yeti cup for free because it was mis-delivered to our house. I called the company that delivered it and they told me I could keep it. I can confirm that it ACTUALLY does keep drinks hot way better than a walmart travel mug or a starbucks travel mug. And the gasket and drink hole actually seal up tight so there are no spills. I would probably never buy anything yeti, though. I’d just make a wood box and fill it with insulation.

  6. Peter Keith

    I’ll be doing my part to report around Boston Harbor by weekday and Martha’s Vineyard by weekend
    Thanks,

  7. Mark McAuliff

    Maybe that is why the rules will be changed. New Jersey fishermen can only sport fish. One rule for all through out there range.

  8. Estephanie

    Can’t move it but a yeti will last you a life time. Thank you yeti for this data resource.
    Could you fill in the missing links between where they were and where they are? As they migrate, do they tend to hold along the coastal shore lines? Do they follow canyons into river outlets? Do larger fish tend to offshore waters?

  9. Freddie Mareb

    One a day is ok. We all should only keep 28-36 in fish and let the population rise for the benefit of all of us. Commercial guys should only be allowed 10 fish under 36 in . The big breeders need to be released. A little conservation and respect for the fish is best for all of us.

  10. Nick

    I believe without a doubt at this time, that the first stripers will arrive earlier on Cape Cod this year compared to last year…All the signs are pointing to it if keeping weather logs means anything…the earlierst Ive seen fresh schoolies is April 14th along the southcoast…The latest has been May 2nd..So far indications are showing a Mid-Late April (April 18-30th) arrival of the first schoolies…

    1. Costa

      🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞long winter is f’ killing me!!!

  11. Magoo

    Will Trump build a wall to prevent the migration? Much luck gents and release the big ones

  12. Philip Grimley

    There is nothing wrong with fishing to make money. Good luck Frank, I hope you kill them.

  13. Jacob V

    They are stocking ponds in the cape already it’s seems like a pretty warm start compared to last year. Lets hope that we start catching some bass up in Maine mid may!!!!

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