Change, adaptation, and resilience have emerged as central concerns in the study of natural resource governance. The mobility of fisheries makes them particularly dynamic and susceptible to long term drivers of movement, such as changing climatic conditions and human pressures. To explore how movement impacts resource systems, this paper presents a mixed-method empirical analysis of long-term geographic shifts and social response in the Northeast U.S. summer flounder fishery from 1996 to 2014. First, the paper describes changes in the distribution of summer flounder and the catch location of commercial fishing trips landing summer flounder. This is followed by a description of the institutional context of summer flounder fishery management and a narrative policy analysis of the ongoing regulatory process. Results indicate significant northward movement of both resource and resource users. Fisheries movement patterns are a result of both ecological change, and an institutional context that allows for some types of fishery mobility while constraining others. Significant conflict has emerged over the distribution of resource access and benefits as these fishery shifts occur within a spatially allocative, and relatively static management context. The analysis identifies competing policy narratives that have emerged to advocate for different forms of adaptation. Narratives offer contesting constructions of the nature and extent of locational shifts, and the fundamental goals of allocation. The differences in these narratives highlight how policy history shapes contemporary disagreements about appropriate response. This fishery serves as a case study for exploring human response to large scale, long-term movements of a natural resource.