There is growing interest in bio-economic models as tools for understanding pathways of fishery behaviour, in order to assess the impact on natural resources. Based on ‘FishRent’, a modelling approach is presented that integrates economics of the fleet, the impact of fishing on stock development and their spatio-temporal interplay. The simulation of species seasonal movements in combination with both observed values and stochastic recruitment allowed analysing the economic response of fleet segments to changes in stock distribution and development. Optimisation of net profits determines the effort adjustment and spatial allocation of fleet segments, which in turn affects the level of catch rates. Effort tended to concentrate where fish abundance was high, but also where fishing costs were low. In simulations with the current management plan spawning stock of North Sea saithe (Pollachius virens) declined below its precautionary reference point. In response fishing far from home ports became expensive and 40% of the initial effort was shifted to areas closer to home ports, but as areas of high fish concentrations were located by the modelled fleet segments catch rates remained high. Changes in seasonal/annual stock distribution, the stock decline and costs influenced the change in fishing effort distributions leading to overestimated catch per unit of effort values that masked the decline of stock abundance.