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

See Where The Migration Is At This Week!

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.

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

  1. Carl

    Yeah mass 2 as they are every year in mid may.
    Ill keep the location as of done for the last six years.
    All i have to say if you find herring the schoolies arent far behing. : )

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

    1. big mike

      Someday I will run for office or support some one that is whiling to protect the stripers,
      Make some to go and make some really tough Law’s, guys like Diaz and multiple others losers is the reason why the population of stripers is low, and yes I do keep a catch, but only once in awhile and under 32in.
      I work so I can afford to buy food at market!

      1. Matt holiday

        I agree we should release our fish there are other types of fish that aren’t dwindling that you can fish for for food. You’ll wish that everyone practiced catch and release when they become endangered

      2. Robert Smith

        I laugh at this supposed “responsible” fisherman that doesn’t keep his legal catch! You people have a lot of gall insulting people who keep their catch, as if they’re the reason fish numbers are low. Sure, rampant commercial fishing is hugely responsible for low fish numbers, along with keeping illegal fish. However, I find it extremely hypocritical of people who torture fish by playing with them as the reel them in, just to turn around and release them! Ever wonder how much damage you do to a good number of those fish you do that to? After release they’re disoriented and more prone to attack from bigger fish. You so called sport fishermen who would rather play with a wild animal, disrupt it’s life and quite frequently damage it so it can’t function normally and either just dies or gets eaten prematurely are a good deal of the problem. You can do what you want, it’s a free world for the most part, but don’t give me your hypocritical crap cause I like to eat what I catch and only fish for that purpose. Would you also propose that it be ok for catch and release bird hunting for example? How about catch and release deer hunting? From my pov, catch and release is as childish and inhumane as it gets and those that partake are hypocrites, at least the ones who criticize those of us who fish for food. Btw, I might keep 6 legal stripers a year, most times less, as well as some other types and I only go out with the intent to keep my legal catch. Catch and release people go out all the time, hook 10 times more fish than I ever do and most likely actually kill more smaller fish in the process, then add all that unnecessary tackle hung up on whatever just below the surface and you have to cut a line, so…

    2. Craven Moorehead

      I hope they close the season or the fish totally bypass your area. I’ll be praying you get skunked this year…

  5. mark macneill

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

  6. 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.

    3. L.fisher

      That is no money at all to a billionaire, not for the working-class

    4. Daniel Schwarzhoff

      Yeah I think you can get a yeti bucket for uner 40 bucks my man.

  7. Peter Keith

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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!!!

  12. Magoo

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

  13. Philip Grimley

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

  14. 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!!!!

  15. ron

    hoping you’re
    right nick i’ll be in Marion for the last week of april

  16. Richard Van Voris

    I think that Lee Wolff said it best ” A game fish is too valuable to only catch only once”
    The striped bass stocks are falling and if we want to keep enjoying this fishery we must all protect it. What makes sense about killing the breeding stock? I refer you to the old story about the Golden Goose.
    I work right on Sippican Harbor in Marion and I will be keeping a sharp lookout starting in Mid April. Can anyone tell me what the magic water temperature is when we can expect to see the schoolies return?

    1. Nick

      Every year I start seeing them when water temps hit mid-upper 40’s in buzzards bay….brackish waters will be considerably warmer and thats where I look first

  17. Harlo

    NYS should open the striped bass season in May again. The guys in Raitan Bay are crushing all the breeder class fish before they get a chance to spawn. When the limit was 36” one fish per man, 2 for charters, bass fishing was epic. Bring back what works.

  18. Chris

    Close commercial striped bass fishing. I hate to take away a man’s living but its obvious to me and many other anglers and biologists that striped bass are in serious trouble. Gone are the days of catching cows over 40″…personally I’d love to see a tag system for recreational fisherman. 3 tags per season. plenty of meals out of 3 bass if that’s your desire. I’ll just keep on taking quick pictures and releasing all my fish. I want my kids to enjoy catching stripers as much as I have.

  19. Metalmanbob

    I’m a guy who love’s to fish for big strikers.We can keep one a day 28in or bigger? What we need is more E P A police to stop these guys who steal small stripers a long the Cape cod canal?I myself have told guys to throw the small ones back A FEW TIMES grrrr Stealing is Stealing!!Ketch n Letmgo n they will grow Peace n ( Go fish)

  20. Rick

    We lose 50 percent of the catch every year to mishandling.of fish.. what I mean by the catch is the total of fish killed annually no matter by what means..fishing predators etc that is a HUGE problem..inexperienced fishermen who have no clue on how to handle the fish or how to release it so it survives..I urge people to educate themselves on how to properly release these fish correctly so they survive!! This alone could double the population of stripers in a few years! And release anything over 36 inches!! Tight lines!!!

  21. David

    The fun is in the catch. Schoolies on a fly rod or light spinning tackle is a sport.
    Leave the cows to make more of them.

  22. Robert W

    The migration has begun!
    To quote an old saying,
    “Act locally, Think globally”

  23. Biggs

    Freddie M I agree with you. Maybe shut it down for a year commercially and recreational. As for the yeti comment never knock a man for what he buys with his hard earned money. As long as he’s not in your pocket . Tight lines fellas !!!!

  24. Yzar

    Yes!!! I would get another Yeti anything, because you only have to buy ONE! They work the way they are suppose tooooo! And catch and release those stripers. Keep one IF you feel like having blacken Rock Fish or stuffed with crab meat!

    Stripers are in the Chesapeake Bay now.

  25. Big Hank

    Can’t wait to see all the big ones come back and personally I love striped bass but I also believe in keeping the population healthy and the idea of a slot keeper size is not a bad idea. 1 fish 28″-36″ is not a bad idea and let the short ones grow and the big females reproduce. Good luck.

  26. Moonlight Dan

    As anglers we have to all do our part to preserve our fishery…release the cows

  27. Benny in Brooklyn

    What is up with all of the angry posts and personal attacks? I thought fishing was one of the LAST places where people could be civil to one another. We all love fishing and we all want our kids and grandkids to enjoy it as much as we do — and we all want a world where polluters (and poachers) get the punishment they deserve, and stripers and other beauties still thrive. Right?

  28. Kyle Oliphant

    Some of you guys need to lighten up. Don’t hate the player hate the game. In other words, if you were good at catching 36” bass and up and you could sell them for profit, many of you would. I think we can all agree that fishing and being on the water is one of the most freeing relaxing satisfying fun things you can do, and if you can make money at it, well then it’s a darn cool hustle. It’s the friggin white collars who we should be pissed at. I mean they friggin added another day to the season last year in the fall because the Massachusetts quota wasn’t full. They asked for comments from us and we all disagreed, yet those white collars still added another day to help deplete an already depleted stock. Why? We don’t know. But Wtf we should be mad at them, not each other. Let’s not lose track of the real problem here. I mean I’m sure your buddy that goes out commercial striped bass fishing two days a week has a real job???! Right??! I don’t think losing a year or two or three of striper commercial fishing will make anyone lose their mortgage so let’s stop the commercial fishing for a year, or two or three. People can eat another fish or another protein, or catch their own to eat if they want. At least let’s get the quota way below what it was last year until the stock increases. I don’t commercial fish but have been on the water since a child and I do keep some fish I catch. I feel fine doing so and as I am entitled to that as are all of you. We are allowed. It’s not the recreational or the commercial fisherman to blame here though folks, it’s the white collars. We are mostly a bunch of blue collars here posting and I don’t want hate between us. Let’s rise above together and fight the power and stop giving them what they want…us to fight. I don’t hate on my neighbor who is trying to make a little extra. If he is really good at catching big bass and if we constrict the quota…well he should be able to be profitable. If we show them hatred toward one another on this site then they have won. Let’s win this together.

  29. Paul

    We have so many poachers here in CT that it’s ridiculous! My son and I are out surfcasting and witnessed 2 latino people stuffing under sized stripers in their waders. Called the DEP twice and they never showed. Tha public needs to be educated and stop buying these undersized fish. No market….no demand.

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