Striped Bass Survey Indicates Below-Average Reproduction
Results Follow Very Successful Spawning Year in 2015
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced today that the 2016 young-of-the-year striped bass index, a measure of bass spawning success in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay is 2.2, well below the 63-year average of 11.7. The index represents the average number of less than 1 year old fish caught in 132 samples during the Juvenile Striped Bass Survey.
“While this year’s striped bass index is disappointing, it is not a concern unless we observe poor spawning in multiple, consecutive years,” said Fishing and Boating Services Director David Blazer. “Very successful spawning years, as recently as 2011 and 2015, should more than compensate for this below-average year-class. Nonetheless, the department and our partners will continue to work to maintain a sustainable fishery for our commercial watermen and recreational anglers.”
Striped bass show great variability in spawning success from year-to-year. Occasional large year-classes are produced but are normally interspersed with average or below-average year-classes. One-year-old striped bass from last year’s very successful year-class were found in abundance. These fish will support local fisheries in the future and later join the coastal spawning population.
Survey results indicate that most anadromous species – fish that return to freshwater to spawn – experienced similarly low reproduction in 2016, potentially indicating that environmental factors such as dry weather and low river flows during the spring season may have contributed to the poor results. Intensive spring surveys found normal numbers of striped bass females on the spawning grounds however sensitive egg and larval stages often don’t survive adverse conditions.
The department has monitored the reproductive success of striped bass and other fish in the bay since 1954. The survey is conducted annually at designated sites distributed throughout four major spawning areas. During this year’s survey, fisheries biologists collected and identified over 38,000 fish of 62 different species, including 291 young-of-year striped bass.