ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Maryland Department of Natural Resources today announced that the 2014 juvenile index - a measure of striped bass spawning success in Chesapeake Bay - is 11.0, nearly equal to the 61-year average of 11.7. The results indicate a healthy level of reproduction for Maryland's state fish.
“These findings reinforce that, although the coastal striped bass population has recently decreased from historically high levels, the spawning stock in the Chesapeake Bay is capable of producing healthy year-classes as defined in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Plan,” said DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O'Connell. “We will continue to work with our partners along the Atlantic Coast to conservatively manage the striped bass population.”
Striped bass, also called rockfish in Maryland, spawn in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries each spring when individual females produce millions of eggs. The ASMFC's management framework includes measures to conserve spawning-aged female striped bass to ensure adequate reproduction over time. Because the survival of striped bass eggs and larvae is largely influenced by environmental factors such as water temperature, salinity and flow rates, the annual juvenile index naturally varies with occasional strong year classes, as observed in 2011, intermixed with average and below average indices.
DNR biologists survey 22 sites in the four major spawning systems - the Choptank, Nanticoke, and Potomac rivers, and the Upper Bay. This year, they counted more than 60,000 fish of 56 different species, including 1,454 striped bass. The crews visit each survey site three times during the summer, collecting fish samples with two sweeps of a 100-foot beach seine. To calculate the indices, biologists count and then average the juvenile fish caught in the samples.
State fisheries biologists have conducted Maryland's Juvenile Striped Bass Survey every year since 1954 to track the highly-variable reproductive success of these and other species including American shad and white perch, which also had successful spawning seasons.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science's Juvenile Striped Bass Survey returned similar results to Maryland this year.