Striped bass season is starting in New York and between now and fall, the waters off the coast of NYC and New Jersey will offer a range of opportunities to hook some incredible trophy bass.
Stripers are the favorite fish of anglers of all backgrounds. Many experienced anglers turn out every day to fish for them, but catching stripers is also exciting and straightforward enough that beginner anglers or kids will also enjoy the experience.
The most thrilling part of bass fishing is almost always the size of the fish you can potentially catch. During the height of the season, it is not unusual to have bass averaging 50 pounds and a particularly good catch can hook striped bass in the waters around NYC that are up to 70 or 80 pounds.
Although far from being a difficult fish to catch, bass still offers some challenges, particularly finding the bass and getting your setup correct to secure a bite. Here we will go in depth on the information and strategies you can use to successfully fish for striped bass around NYC, including seasonal considerations, where to go, what baits to use, what conditions to look out for, and specific regulations that will help you fish for striped bass sustainably.
Striped Bass Boat Fishing Trips in NYC
For fishermen who are completely new to striped bass fishing or saltwater fishing, or who want to get to the best striped bass fishing locations in NYC, joining a fishing party boat is the best option. Boats like the Marilyn Jean, for instance, have everything you need to catch bass, including rods, reels, and bait.
They can also get you to the specific area where fish are active at different points in the day and season. While striped bass fishing in bays and estuaries or from shore and piers can provide good results some of the time, you will often be limited in when you can catch fish and how many. This is not the case on the Marilyn Jean where our captain can take you to the heart of the action, increasing your chances of a memorable catch.
On the Marilyn Jen, we sail for striped bass nearly every day of the season, giving us first hand information about striper striper movement in local areas like:
- Jamaica Bay
- Raritan Bay
- Sandy Hook
- Rockaway Beach
- Coney Island, and More
This way, we always know where we have recently had the best luck with stripers, limiting the time we have to spend searching them out on any trip and increasing the time that you get to spend catching fish.
Daytime and evening trips on the Marilyn Jean leave from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, providing additional convenience with a location that is easy to get to by subway.
Striped Bass Biology
Striped bass, also called linesiders and rockfish, are a native fish to Atlantic waters and a migratory species. They move up and down the eastern seaboard in the different seasons, reaching as far south as Florida in the winter and as far north as the St. Lawrence River in Canada in the summer.
This puts NYC and the coast of New Jersey in the optimal position of experiencing striped bass migration close to our shores twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, as well as fishing opportunities throughout the summer in the cooler waters further off the coast.
The fish itself has a thick body with a series of horizontal stripes on each side, hence the name. The color of the scales ranges from green to blue to black to brown with a pale underside.
Stripers in the wild can live up to 30 years and during that time reach as much as 80 pounds and 5 feet in length. In addition to their well-proportioned appearance, their sheer size makes these larger fish a very impressive catch. A fish of this size naturally also has some fighting capabilities when hooked for an additional challenge and reward when landing striped bass.
The majority of striped bass are in saltwater outside of breeding in freshwater, but stripers have also been introduced into freshwater ecosystems, and many lakes throughout the country contain striped bass. Freshwater fishing for striped bass is different as the stripers remain in the same body of water without migrating. Water temperatures, activity levels, and food sources will also differ. For this guide, we are focusing solely on saltwater fishing for striped bass.
In terms of eating, stripers are often thought to have some of the best tasting meat in the bass family with a flaky flesh that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Generally, you only want to eat younger striped bass less than 30 inches long. Any larger than that and the fish will be several years old, meaning it has had more time to absorb metals in the water that can significantly impact the taste of the fish.
Due to this fact and regulations on the number of fish you can keep, the majority of striped bass fishing is catch and release.
Striped Bass Life Cycle and Migration in NYC
Stripers do best in water that is between 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As seasons and temperatures change, the fish have to move around to find water with the ideal temperature.
The exact timelines for this migration vary from year to year as annual temperatures, storms, and other conditions directly impact water temperatures, but in general stripers are passing the New York coast beginning in April and lasting into May. Their second migration south happens largely in October.
The temperatures and time of year will also play some part in how far off the coast stripers are. In spring when waters tend to run cooler, they will more often be near shore and in bays, estuaries, rivers, and other inlets where shallower water will warm up sooner. In summer, they will move northward and out to cooler water off of the coast to stay in waters that are the right temperature. They will only be accessible via boat during this time.
Striped Bass Freshwater Breeding
Striped bass lay their eggs in freshwater or brackish water in the spring and for the first few years, the young stripers will stay near the location of their birth. During the spring, the smaller schoolies will be in shallow and sheltered waters before moving to beaches and other locations near shore when the water gets warmer.
Schoolers are smaller, usually less than 10 or 20 inches, and travel in schools with hundreds of other fish. Occasionally a larger trophy fish will slip in with schoolies as well and, once big enough, schoolies can provide an enjoyable shore fishing opportunity.
When is the Best Time of Year to Fish for Stripers in NYC?
Anytime between April and October can provide results with striper fishing as long as you know which area to look in. The migratory periods tend to be when stripers are most active and most readily feeding, which will often mean more lively fishing and more opportunities.
This is because stripers are in shallower waters near the surface, actively feeding on schools of baitfish. You will have many striped bass in a single area, all of which are more likely to go for whatever bait you offer.
Of these two periods, October tends to yield larger fish since the stripers are preparing for winter and eating in excess. This fish will also bite more often since they will be less picky about food this time of year.
In spring, stripers will have come off of a lean winter and will need and will take some time to reach their full size.
Best Time of Day for Striper Fishing
Once you have the right season, the next task is finding the right time of day to fish for stripers. Striped bass are eating and active throughout the day and night, so you will have some luck whenever you head out.
But they tend to be most active in the early morning just before sunrise and the evening just after sunset with about a two hour window of heightened activity at both times. The lower light during these time periods helps striped bass more easily see their prey when hunting. It also provides cooler water temperatures.
However, these times of day do have some variation depending on the season. For instance, in spring, water in the morning will still be very cold and striped bass are likely to be less active after sunrise, making the evening hours the best time to fish.
Conversely, in summertime, evenings may be too warm for striped bass and you should aim for morning fishing trips instead or go later in the evening to give the water more time to cool.
Other Factors that Affect Striped Bass Fishing
In addition to season and time of day, pro anglers also pay attention to additional signs that will impact where stripers are and how likely they are to be feeding at any given time, such as:
- Tides – An incoming or outgoing tide will change the current of the water. High tide and low often cause the best bass fishing since the currents are strongest, but this will vary by location depending on how the tide affects a certain place, and more specifically the baitfish there.
- Moon Phases – The moon impacts the tide and also currents in the water. The striper bite is usually best in the days surrounding a full moon when the gravitational pull on the water will be creating strong upward currents, providing the best fishing days in any month.
- Wind – Wind will benefit striper fishing up to a point before diminishing it. Wind can help create the currents that bring bass out to feed, but if the wind becomes too strong and starts to decrease visibility by kicking up sand and mud, stripers will often stop biting until the water clears.
- Storms – A cold front coming through usually leads to great bass fishing until the front passes, at which point the fishing quality will reduce significantly. Warm fronts are beneficial in the spring when they can stimulate activity, but will push fish out to deeper waters when they occur in the summer.
As with all fishing, conditions on any given day may have an extreme effect or apparently no effect on striper activity. Keeping up to date with weather activity, tide tables, and moon phases can provide some guidance in determining when you will fish and what techniques you will use out on the water, but there will also be some guesswork and luck needed, adding to the thrill of the perfect catch.
Where to Fish for Striped Bass Around NYC and NJ
Getting the right location will often be one of the most important factors in striped bass fishing. Even if you have everything else right – season, weather, and bait – you will still see no results if there are simply no stripers feeding in the same area that you are fishing in.
We have already explained that striped bass locations are seasonal. For fishing during the spring, you want to remain closer to shore and will have better luck in estuaries, rivers, and bays. Shore fishing will provide good results during this time, or fishing on a boat can get you to several different areas. Surf fishing and fishing from the ends of piers and jetties will provide better results as the season wears on before offshore fishing becomes the necessary method later in the summer.
But it is also valuable to know where striped bass are likely to be in any of these given areas.
Stripers feed in open water. This is an ideal time to catch them since they are actively hunting and out in the open. They will be where their food source is. Birds circling over the water are a sign that baitfish, and subsequently stripers, are nearby since the baitfish are a food source for the birds as well. Fishing in whitewater if you are shore fishing is also a good choice since striped bass will be drawn to the currents there.
But you can also target stripers in the rocky areas where they live when not hunting. These include natural underwater structures, like reefs and rock fields, as well as man made structures like bridges, jetties, and piers. In any of these areas, you can use bottom fishing techniques to catch fish within the rocks.
What Bait to Use for Striper Fishing
Stripers are voracious fish, particularly during the migratory seasons when they will eat almost any food they can find in their environment, although what they are eating on any given day can vary.
Live bait is always best with stripers since that is what they naturally feed on. Stripers hunt by sight and the movement of live bait makes it easier for the stripers to see your bait.
Dead bait can also attract striped bass by the scent alone. You can continue to use a bait fish after it has died, and the movement of the current will still keep it active enough to attract bass. You can also chunk dead bait to create a tempting scent and draw in striped bass.
The go to live bait for striped bass is bunker, or menhaden. Many stripers are eating this already and will willingly go for it on a hook or as chum. It is compatible with any fishing style whether you are casting, trolling, or bottom fishing, although you should be gentle to avoid the bait slipping from the hook.
If using live menhaden for casting or drifting, you can cut the tail off before you cast. This causes the baitfish to sink and make it an easy catch for the stripers. If using dead bunker to fish for striped bass, the head is useful in only attracting striped bass since other fish are less likely to go for it. The center part of the bait fish which contains the guts will attract almost anything with its powerful scent, and the tail is meaty for good results when chunking.
Other baits that are particularly attractive to sleep or striped bass are:
- Live Eels
The specific bait you choose can depend on many different factors. Certain baits are better for different areas. For instance, clams work well in rocky areas where clams are most likely to be naturally. For surf fishing, fresh or frozen mackerel works well chunked because it has an oily flesh that will hold up in churning surf, as well as give off a strong smell.
Worms can be highly effective but face the consistent problem that they will attract many types of fish that you are not trying to catch, and you may quickly run through a large amount of expensive bait, particularly if you are buying them rather than collecting your own.
If you are facing challenges with other fish stealing your bait, eels are a good option since they rarely attract other fish. Larger menhaden, porgy, and mackerel are better options as well since only the larger stripers will go for them.
Striped Bass Fishing with Artificial Lures
When stripers are going for anything, they will often bite on an artificial lure. You want to use lures that are closest to their natural prey, both in terms of mimicking movement and appearance. Lures that are scented are also extremely valuable in attracting stripers.
The various lures to consider are mostly top water lures. These are often good for tempting stripers when they are already feeding. Some of the best options include:
You can also target striped bass at different levels in the water column with bucktails, metal lures, soft plastic lures, and multi jointed swimbaits.
Lures can be a lot of fun for catching striped bass because you get to do more of the work yourself as you work from the lure through the water, although this can also require a little more skill and it may not be the best option if you are striped bass fishing for the first few times.
Fishing Techniques for Striper Saltwater Fishing
A variety of fishing techniques will work with striped bass. Popular methods include:
- Drifting for Striped Bass – When you are on a boat over open water or bottom fishing, drifting is a reliable technique that will catch your bait in the current and allow it to drift with the boat. It also works from the end of the dock as well with a heavy current. The current will keep the bait beneath the water for a striper to see as you reel in the line.
- Trolling for Striped Bass – If you have access to a boat, trolling is a great method for catching a large number of fish quickly. You can use chumped live bait here or artificial lures. The artificial lures can be better as you are locating fish since you can travel faster without the bait disintegrating. Once you find a depth and location that works, and especially during the migratory seasons, you can catch many striped bass in a short amount of time with trolling.
- Shore Fishing for Striped Bass – In the spring and early summer, shore fishing will produce a good catch. You will need to be able to get out far enough with either waders or casting artificial lures to reach a sufficient distance. Focusing on rocky outcroppings or the cuts in mud flats will often yield the best results.
- Bottom Fishing for Striped Bass – When you are fishing for striped bass in rocky areas, you can use standard bottom fishing techniques with live bait or lures. Simply drop your line over an area with “structures” and reel it back in, waiting for the fish to bite.
As you are getting started, drift fishing is one of the easier methods since both trolling and surf fishing can require an extensive equipment setup.
Striped Bass Fishing in NYC with a Circle Hook
After many years of overfishing, striped bass populations were significantly threatened. There are now regulations in place to help promote the regrowth of local striped bass populations. The most important of these is that all catch and release striped bass fishing that uses natural bait – alive or dead – must be done with a circle hook.
Unlike the standard J-hook, the circle hook curves back onto itself and is in-line. This is to prevent the fish from swallowing the hook and make it easier to release the fish and return it to the water without any injury that might result in lasting harm. Instead of a gut hook, the circle hook will secure the striped bass through the cheek.
The process for setting your hook is slightly different with a circle hook than a J-hook. With a J-hook, the angler moves the rod upwards to set the hook. For a circle hook, simply hold the rod in place and the hook will set itself as the fish tries to swim away.
For sizing, you should use an 8/10 circle hook if you are fishing with live menhaden or prodigy. Opt for a smaller 6/10 hook if you are chunking with fish or worms.
Additional regulations surrounding striped bass fishing in New York include daily limits for the number of fish you can keep. When you are fishing in the Hudson River, the limit is 1 fish per day between 18 and 20 inches. In marine waters, the limit is 1 fish between 28 and 35 inches. Remember to also carry your fishing license if you are above the age of 16.
Plan an NYC Striped Bass Fishing Trip
Striped bass in NYC is one of the area’s most exciting fishing experiences. When you want a thrilling day on the water and an impressive catch, striped bass is the perfect fish to go for. To make the most of your experience, striped bass fishing on the Marilyn Jean will ensure you get to fish in the top spots with the best possible results.
Schedule a striped bass fishing trip online to sail aboard the Marilyn Jean or gather your gear and try your luck at striper fishing at many of the great locations around NYC.