2017 Striper Migration Map
The striper migration has begun! A mild February was followed by a cool March, but the striper migration is right where we’d expect it. Striped bass are moving toward their spawning grounds in Chesapeake Bay, and smaller stripers are getting active in warming inshore areas in Delaware Bay, southern New Jersey, the west end of Long Island, and tidal rivers in Connecticut.
In the main stem of the Chesapeake, water temperatures are cooler than at the same time last winter, thanks to cold weather and snowmelt. Surface temperatures are slowly creeping up through the low 40s, and everything looks on track for a normal mid-April spawn. Striped bass are moving up the bay and into the spawning tidal rivers. They are the Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke, Choptank and Susquehanna rivers.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, recent snowmelt has resulted in water temperatures in the lower Susquehanna River dipping to about 42°, checking the progress of striped bass staging for upcoming spawning activity. Striped bass are present in the lower parts of the river, and those participating in the catch and release fishery are reminded to use barbless hooks and to stay below the spawning reach line that runs from the Susquehanna State Park boat ramp to Twin Rocks to Tomes Wharf in Port Deposit. Natural Resource Police officers are present in the area, enforcing regulations (no fishing in the spawning reach for striped bass) and are warning anglers that striped bass must be released immediately in the legal Susquehanna Flats Catch and Release area. Striped bass are to be released immediately by law, so be prepared to unhook fish quickly in the water and if you must pose for a picture, be prepared ahead of time, support the fish horizontally and do it quickly, very quickly.
The Spring Trophy Striped Bass Season will kick off on April 15th. The minimum size this year will be 35″ measured as a total length (to the tip of the tail, NOT fork length).
In the middle bay area a few boats can be seen practicing some trolling catch and release fishing along channel edges in the main part of the bay with barbless hooks. Light tackle jigging at the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm-water discharge is popular every winter and early spring, as striped bass nose into that warm water to gain some relief from 43° water in the middle bay region.
The lower bay region of Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay has been offering some light tackle jigging catch and release action around the Point Lookout area near channel edges. Barbless hooks and a quick release are a must, so make sure everyone on board knows what the drill is ahead of time.
New Jersey and Delaware Bay
In inshore areas of upper Delaware Bay, short stripers are being caught and released, mostly by anglers fishing bloodworms and grass shrimp for white perch.
Noel Feliciano at One Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City said the freeze hurt the fishing there, but he did report a few bass were caught in the Mullica River. Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar said there has been word on small stripers in the surf, but not a lot of people are fishing. The most reliable reports he’s been getting are from bass anglers fishing at Oyster Creek and the Mullica River.
Capt. Phil Sciortino Jr. at the Tackle Box in Hazlet said the Raritan Bay water was a casualty of the snowstorm with temperatures dropping at least 10 degrees. Matt Calabria of Hazlet was catching bass and had landed a 32 incher before the big chill. Sciortino said we’re going to need a couple of warm, sunny days to get the water temperature back into the high 40s before the fish start biting again.
Backwater areas on the West End of the island were holding up some schoolie stripers, but the recent cold snap has given the fish lockjaw and kept anglers at home.
The holdover striper fishing has been particularly good in the Housatonic River, and the fish will only get more active once the water begins to warm. The Providence River and Narrow River typically hold some holdover stripers, but there haven’t been any positive reports from these areas. Anglers are predicting that the first sea-lice covered schoolies will show up along the Rhode Island coast sometime in mid-April.
Cape Cod/ Massachusetts
Holdover striped bass were reported in tidal waters on and off the Cape back in January, but folks who have been out searching lately have come up empty handed. Boston Harbor, and the Mystic River in particular, has given up a few holdover schoolie stripers to persistent anglers.