River Herring

 Blueback Herring

Herring are one of the best striper baits to fish live (no longer allowed.) They are usually around in the spring, when they make their run up rivers to spawn, often with stripers chasing them. The above picture is of a blueback herring.

About River Herring

River Herring is the general name given to two species of fish commonly found along the Atlantic East Coast: the alewife and the blueback herring. Both the alewife and blueback herring are silvery in color. However, the dorsal area of the alewife is bronze in color whereas blueback herring are deep bluish green. Alewife and blueback herring are so difficult to distinguish from each other that they are both commonly called "river herring".

The coastal range of the blueback herring is from Nova Scotia to Florida; the coastal range of alewife extends from Labrador to South Carolina. River herring are anadromous fish that hatch in fresh water, then move out to the ocean where they spend their adult lives. Each year they return to the same fresh water streams to spawn. River herring can often be found in schools of thousands, congregating near the streams where they were born. River herring are filter feeders and feed mainly on plankton. They can grow as large as 15 inches in length.

River herring used to be a favorite bait for catching striped bass.

Whereas, river herring in the past were very abundant, their numbers have decreased dramatically in recent years. Their decline has been traced to the damming of rivers and feeder streams, filling in of spawning ponds, degradation of water quality, and alteration of pond and river flows.

In response to the declining trend for river herring many states have instituted moratoriums on taking and possesslng herring. Thus they are not presently available as a bait for striped bass fishing.


Many states are attempting to rebuild river herring populations by building fish ladders around dams, cleaning up rivers, and introducing spawning-size adults from other locations to enhance existing river stocks.

Fish Ladder at Batsto, NJ

Fish Ladder at Batsto -
Link to larger image

The picture on the right shows the entrance to a fish ladder that was recently built by the State of NJ at Batsto, around a dam that blocked a tributary to the Mullica River.

Another species of herring called Atlantic Herring or Sea Herring roam the oceans and are quite different.
Follow this link to see more about: Sea Herring