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Striped Bass Spring Migration
May 10, 2009
by Bob Creeden
Article # 2

Tuesday, May 5, 30-inch bluefish continued to move into the northeast coast from off shore. The earlier than expected push by bluefish that hit northern New Jersey beaches a week ago, has expanded to Jamaica Bay and the Fire Island Inlet. They are half way up the south shore of Long Island. Can Montauk be far behind? This early arrival of lean and hungry bluefish may cause us to see bluefish in RI and MA before the end of May. Spawned out striped bass are moving north from their Chesapeake Region home rivers. On May 6, there were reports that spawned out striped bass up to 35-pounds, were being caught in the NY Bight. There were other reports of striped bass, loaded with eggs, staging for their move up the Hudson in Raritan Bay, NJ, and in Jamaica Bay, NY. Western Long Island Sound is loaded with small striped bass moving from the Hudson River to L.I. Sound via the Harlem and East Rivers. These small striped bass are getting out of the way of the big stripers that are moving up the Hudson to spawn. Birds were reported crashing bait pushed to the surface by big schools of small striped bass off Bridgeport, Stratford, Milton and West Haven, CT. All the striped bass hounds who like to fish the Connecticut coastal rivers should be putting their boats, kayaks and fishing lines into the salty ends of the rivers near their homes as soon as possible.

At River Basin Sports, Catskill, NY, a new leader went ahead of Gerard Uhrik‘s 46-inch fish with a 46.5-inch fish caught 30 miles south of Catskill by Kim Doyle of Chichester, NY. Doyle was fishing from shore, south of Port Ewen, NY, on Friday, May 8, 2009.

This photo was taken by Tom Gentalen, at the River Basin Sports Shop.

2009 River Basin Sports STRIPER CONTEST STANDINGS - May 9, 2009
1) $5,730.00 46 1/2" Kim Doyle - May 8, 2009
2) $1,948.20 46" Gerard Uhrik - April 25, 2009
3) $1,489.80 45" Steve Hopf - May 7, 2009
4) $1,031.40 44" Brian Bishop – tie April 26, 2009
4) $ 687.60 44" Cindy Leonard – tie April 27, 2009
6) $ 573.00 43" Bill Baldwin – tie April 25, 2009

On Sunday, May 10, 2009, water temperatures in the Hudson River were 62-degrees in Albany, NY, 60-degrees in Poughkeepsie, NY, and 61-degrees at the Battery, New York City. The Hudson River has achieved spawning temperatures from New York City to Albany, NY. I expect this week that striped bass will be spawning in more than a few locations in the Hudson Valley. During the day, air temperatures are expected to stay in the mid to high 60’s. I have seen striped bass spawning several times and three occasions were on wet, warm, and windless days in mid May. Most striped bass spawn at night. If you are lucky enough to see a striped bass spawning dance, consider yourself witness to a wonderful event. Please understand that the urge to procreate by these fish is powerful and intense. They will not feed while it is going on. Spawning occurs in the top 3 feet of water in the main stem of the Hudson River, and can cover as much as four to five acres. Please do not motor through a spawning ritual, you will kill fish because they will not get out of your way. They are driven to spawn, and everything else is background music. They can not protect themselves from your motor, so be very careful when fish start breaking all around you. I always shut the motor down and enjoy the view.

During the past 58 years I have fished for striped bass in the Hudson River. When I was 11 years old, my folks moved from Long Island to Ossining, NY, about thirty miles up river from New York City. My father bought a house overlooking the Hudson River from his uncle who had just retired from the Westchester County Police Department. One of our neighbors was from an old NY Dutch family, that had fished the Hudson River for almost three centuries as shad fishermen. He taught me how to fish for striped bass, bluefish, shad, carp and saltwater catfish in Tappan Zee, Haverstraw and Croton Bays . I fished with handlines for catfish and white perch, and pulled shad nets and pin hooked striped bass and blue fish with rod and reel. This was before the Tappan Zee Bridge was built. I was taught the rhythms of the seasons and the fish on the wide bays in that saltwater environment. When I asked him why we only fished 12 foot nets in the top part of the river for shad, he told me to look at the river as a column of water. Bait fish, including shad and herring swim in the top 12 feet. Striped bass swim below 12 feet as they come into the river to spawn. The males swim in the middle of the column and female striped bass, loaded with eggs, hug the bottom and move north rapidly. Both male and female striped bass move into the shallows at night, and cruise for herring, killifish and any other bait that might be available. They like eels, a lot!

Striped bass begin their entry into the Hudson River in early March. These fish stay in saltwater, below the Bear Mountain Bridge, until schools of alewife herring start moving up the river in early April. As the schools of herring start moving north, they pick up pods of big striped bass who feed on them as they push up the river. American shad, herring and striped bass spawn in freshwater from Newburgh Bay north to the Federal Flood Control Dam at Troy, NY. A study by the Hudson River Fisheries Unit in 1991 showed that Hudson River female striped bass were between 5 and 8 years old when they first start to produce offspring.

Striped bass will continue to enter the Hudson River thru mid May. Blueback herring arrive in late April, and the later arriving bass have fresh schools to draw sustanence from as they move up river. Male striped bass wait for the female bass to react to longer days and higher water temperatures. Spawning begins when female striped bass sense water temperatures are warm enough to receive their eggs. They move up from the bottom of the river, and pick up male escorts as they rise. As she begins to push her eggs out, the males will start poking her belly with their snouts to help expel eggs out of her body. At the same time they are hitting the female, the males begin releasing clouds of milt to fertilize the eggs. This poking activity causes the female to start rolling over to avoid the jabs to her sides. It creates bath tub size swirls in the surface of the river. As this activity starts, it triggers more fertile females to move to the surface and more and more males join them. I have seen several acres of the river agitated like a washing machine. This mixing of eggs and milt spreads them far and wide. It is nature’s way of insuring most of the eggs are exposed to the milt. Spawning activity usually occurs in slack or near slack tides. The eggs are neutrally buoyant, and they float below the surface and are moved back and forth through several tidal cycles. If the water remains above 55 degrees, the eggs have a good chance to survive and become a Class Year we will talk about ten years from now.

On average, female striped bass will release up to 3 million eggs. Striped bass over 13 years old produce 5 million eggs, or more, per year. Alewife and Blueback herring spawn against rocky shorelines in the main stem and in the lower parts of many of the tributaries that feed the Hudson River. American Shad spawn on shallow flats that dot the shores of the Hudson from the Esopus Meadows to Albany, NY. The biologists of the Hudson River Fisheries Unit are concerned that shad spawning activity is scattered and not very strong this year. They would appreciate any information you have of dates, time and locations you have observed shad spawning. Call 845 256 3071 between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday.

Anglers in eastern CT and western RI had bluefish show up this past weekend. MA anglers will see hungry striped bass and blue fish in their bays and rivers before the end of May. Get your boats and fishing rigs ready! Some striped bass up to 35-inches moved through the Cape Cod Canal on Friday, May 8, 2009. Small striped bass were in Boston Harbor, at Cape Ann and in the Merrimac River as of Saturday morning

I’ll be fishing in the Hudson River near Catskill, NY from May 15 to 21. Wish me luck! I’m going to troll plugs in the channel, drift chunk and live herring along the drop offs and throw big herring flies at the grass edges of several interesting spots I know. Till we meet again! Be safe, be sane, and go fishing as often as you can.
All Stripers All The Time!!


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