Striped bass reproduction in Maryland rebounded from last year’s record-low spawning index in the state, though it remained below the long-term average, biologists reported. The news was slightly better in Virginia, where biologists found that reproduction was about average.
The indices in both states represent the average number of juvenile striped bass caught during sweeps of 100-foot seine nets during monitoring conducted throughout the course of the year.
In Maryland, the state Department of Natural Resources reported the 2013 index was 5.8, far above last year’s record low of 0.9, but still below the long-term average of 11.7. Meanwhile, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science said its index was a bit more than 10 per net, up from less than three last year, and slightly better than the long term average of nine.
Scientists in both states noted that year-to-year reproduction of striped bass is highly variable, Two years ago, the Maryland index was 34.6, the fourth highest since the survey began in 1954. That year, Virginia scientists reported an average of 27 juveniles per seine haul, the highest since its annual survey began in 1990.
“Several years of average reproduction mixed with large and small year-classes are typical for striped bass,” said DNR Fisheries Director Tom O’Connell.
Nonetheless, the Maryland index, historically one of the best predictors of coastal striped bass population, has been below the long-term average in five of the last six years.
The East Cost striped bass population remains high compared with the early 1980s when record low numbers spurred a coastwide fishing moratorium, though the overall population and adult female spawning stock have both been trending down in the last decade according to a new stock assessment prepared for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a panel responsible for managing migratory fish stocks along the East Coast.
Maryland’s survey is conducted at 22 sites in the four major spawning systems ─ the Choptank, Potomac and Nanticoke rivers, and the Upper Bay. DNR biologists visited each site monthly from July through September, collecting fish samples with two sweeps of a 100-foot beach seine.
The VIMS Juvenile Striped Bass Seine Survey samples 18 stations in the Rappahannock, York and James rivers. Each year, biologists sample each site five times from early July through mid-September.
Juveniles produced this year will start to be large enough to be caught in three to four years.