Striped bass live in both freshwater and saltwater and generally migrate from one to the other at two major points in their lifetime: when they reach adulthood and when they are ready to spawn.
Striped bass are born in freshwater rivers, streams, and brackish bodies of water. Their first migration typically occurs when they reach adulthood, which occurs in the first 1-2 years of life.
Once they reach the ocean, the adult striped bass join larger schools of stripers and follow their seasonal migration patterns, which typically involve traveling north during the warmer months and south during the cooler months.
Returning to Spawn
When adult striped bass are ready to spawn, they return to freshwater tributaries. For males, this is on average between 2-3 years of age and for females on average between 5-6 years of age.
Striped bass usually spawn in winter and spring. Tributaries in the Hudson River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Roanoke River-Albemarle Sound are particularly popular spawning locations for striped bass.
One reason striped bass return to freshwater to spawn is that they need a current to keep their eggs in motion for up to 3 days to prevent them from sinking and getting covered by debris.
While migration timed around adulthood and spawning is typical, it is not the rule. Some striped bass do not migrate at all or migrate only short distances from where they are spawned.
There is still a lot left to learn about striped bass, including why some stripers migrate and why some don’t, and why the age at which they migrate varies.