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Fall is striper time. Are you ready for the action?
By Yamaha Outboards
Tags: inshore

If you live in New England, it’s already started. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic you know that fall is in the air and millions of striped bass are heading your way. The southward migration of these highly-prized gamefish is a months-long fishing extravaganza that gets any fisherman’s adrenaline pumping.

Striped bass are without question the most sought after inshore gamefish from Maine to North Carolina. They grow to prodigious size, fight hard and can be caught using a variety of techniques. They spend a good deal of their time close to the beach feasting on schools of mullet and menhaden, which means they are within range of anglers in almost any size boat for at least part of the run. They will even make forays into coastal estuaries and rivers chasing baitfish. The icing on the cake for those who enjoy a good fight is a sumptuous fish dinner, as stripers are great on the plate. If all those attributes make them the perfect gamefish for you, then be prepared for a little company on the water over the next few months because you’re certainly not alone.

The fall striper run is a special time of the year and to understand this phenomenon, you need to know a little about the life cycle and migratory habits of the fish. Stripers spawn in the spring in fresh water and, unlike some species of salmon, can keep returning to spawn year after year. If they beat the odds of a precarious life in the sea avoiding larger predators and anglers and commercial fishermen, they can live 30 years or more. Millions spawn in the rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay, and millions more spawn in the Hudson River. Smaller contingents spawn in places like the Delaware and Connecticut Rivers, and even some smaller tidal flows that provide the right habitat for the eggs to develop and hatch. During the first few years of life, young stripers stick close to home inhabiting estuarine waters near their birth rivers where they feed on smaller prey and grow. When they reach about seven years of age, they join what fishery managers call the spawning stock biomass, sexually mature stripers capable of adding to the coast-wide stocks.

After the spawning migration into freshwater in the spring, they make their way to the ocean and begin a second mass migration. This one takes them north, up the eastern seaboard to distant waters where they spend the summer feeding on abundant forage species. The greatest numbers of them spend their time off New England, while others spread out along the coast from New Jersey through Connecticut. As the waters off the New England coast begin to cool in September and October, they begin the migration south to the areas where they spend the winter, many settling offshore of Virginia and North Carolina. As they make their way there, they spend a great deal of time feeding on the massive congregations of small baitfish that pour out of major coastal estuaries. They also track down schools of mullet, menhaden and herring that are in migration mode. Basically, there are millions of striped bass moving along the coastline along with billions of forage fish. It’s a sustained feeding event that can last for two months or more depending on the migratory path.

What’s your favorite way to fish? Do you like trolling or maybe fishing with live bait? How about jigging, bucktailing, casting plugs, throwing soft plastics or fly fishing? All of these techniques can work during the fall striper run. You will find varying conditions, including the presence of different forage species and almost daily movements of stripers from shallow water along the beach to deeper water up to three miles offshore (the legal limit allowed to fish for stripers due to federal regulations), which can determine which techniques have the best odds of catching fish. The best path to success is to be prepared with whatever tackle you need so that you can switch techniques to meet the conditions you encounter.

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