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Chesapeake Bay 2021 Young-of-Year Survey Results Announced

Striped Bass Reproduction Below Average, Other Species Strong in Rivers

Photo of man and woman in the water holding scientific instruments

The Department of Natural Resources has monitored the annual reproductive success of striped bass in Maryland’s portion of Chesapeake Bay since 1954. Photo by Stephen Badger, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced results of this year’s juvenile striped bass survey, which tracks the reproductive success of the iconic fish in the Chesapeake Bay. The 2021 young-of-year index is 3.2 which is slightly higher than last year but still below the long-term average of 11.4.

The coastal striped bass population has decreased in size, but is still capable of strong reproduction with the right environmental conditions. Variable spawning success is a well-known characteristic of the species. The index is slightly higher than 2020 but consecutive below average indices are a concern, and biologists continue to examine factors that might limit spawning success. 

Atlantic Coast states enacted responsible conservation measures in recent years to reduce harvest and protect striped bass during spawning season. Maryland will work with other states in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to develop additional measures to enhance the striped bass population through the Atlantic striped bass fishery management plan.

Graph of comparative historic juveniles striped bass indicesOther noteworthy observations of the survey were increased numbers of Atlantic menhaden in the Choptank River and healthy reproduction of American shad in the Potomac River. The survey also documented reproduction of invasive blue catfish in the upper Chesapeake Bay for the first time.

Twenty-two survey sites are located in four major spawning areas: the Choptank, Nanticoke, and Potomac rivers, and the Upper Chesapeake Bay. Biologists visit each site three times per summer, collecting fish with two sweeps of a 100-foot beach seine net. The index represents the average number of recently hatched striped bass, commonly called rockfish, captured in each sample.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science conducts a similar survey in the southern portion of Chesapeake Bay.