Understanding the Striped Bass Migration

Knowing the patterns of the Striped Bass migration will help you know where and when to target these rod bending giants. Stripers have two very distinct migratory seasons. The reason for this is because they prefer temperatures between 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, to meet this need they migrate once in the spring and once in the fall.

When talking about Striped Bass migration, the angler should be familiar with the two categories they can be classified in. The first category is the migrators which are generally the older and larger bass. The second category is the local or holdovers. Usually the younger smaller striped bass hang around the ocean beaches and the bays where they were born until they are large enough to join the rest in the migration. Most often when they reach around 30 inches in length they will migrate. As stated above, the migration consists of two parts; one in the spring and the other in the fall. These times offer the best chance of landing a true trophy striper.

Spring Migration

Usually the spring migration begins in the deep waters of the lower east coast. Eventually they head north, going into the bays and into rivers to spawn. Normally nearly three quarters of striped bass spawn around the rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. However, there are other rivers such as the Hudson and Delaware that have significant support for spawning. After they’ve completed their spawning cycle they come out of the rivers and gather around beaches for a while until the water warms. Once the water warms they begin the next path of migration and head farther north. Eventually they end up all throughout the New England waters and sometimes as far as Maine.

Fall Migration

Once the fall comes around the water begins to cool the bass begin to swim south again towards the deeper waters of the Virginia and North Carolina coasts where they will spend the winter. This usually happens along the time when various baitfish such as silversides come out of the rivers and bays into the ocean. By this time the bass are eager to bulk up for the winter months coming up, when this happens a frenzy of hungry striper begin to go after the baitfish. This phenomenon is also known as a "boil". You can see more in the videos on this page. You can usually spot this by the number of birds surrounding the area. Typically the fall migration lasts between December and January.

Here is a great write up with more detail on striped bass migration.

Factors To Remember

The thing to remember about striped bass is that they pick up on the temperature of water and sometimes these temperatures don’t always occur on the same dates every year. Most often, storms and and other weather patterns can disrupt and alter migration patterns and timing. Another thing to keep in mind about the fall migration is that the striped bass desire for food will almost always overpower their wariness of light and they will often come in close to beaches, even during daylight hours.

Understanding the Striped Bass migration will hopefully enable you to successfully land bigger and more striper during these times of the year. Goodluck and please share your experiences or tips with us and our visitors.

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