May 24, 2024

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Chesapeake Striped Bass Reproduction Lowest in 10 Years

The numbers are in from the 2023 Maryland Department of Natural Resources Young-of-Year Striper Survey, and not only is it the fifth consecutive below-average spawn, it’s the worst spawn since 2012.

Weather and river conditions during the winter and early spring play a major role in the spawning success of striped bass and other anadromous species. With a mild, dry winter this year, the river conditions weren’t conducive to spawning, and striped bass, along with white perch, yellow perch, and herring, recorded below-average spawns.

DNR Fisheries and Boating Director Lynn Fegley said, “It’s important to remember that increasing the size of the striped bass stock does not guarantee strong reproduction. We will continue to work with other coastal states to rebuild the population so spawning can succeed when conditions are right.”

While there’s nothing we, as anglers, can do about the poor striped bass recruitment since 2019, we can help protect the fish we have. Proper catch and release practices will help our current stock of striped bass to survive and grow, so that when spawning conditions are right, the fish will be there.

From the DNR Press Release on the Survey Results:  “Previously, favorable environmental conditions for striped bass such as heavy winter snowfalls or higher spring rainfalls have helped produce stronger juvenile year classes. Nutrient pollution reduction efforts throughout the Bay watershed have also reduced the instances of hypoxia affecting striped bass and other fish.”

Here’s to hoping the Farmer’s Almanac prediction of a cold, snowy winter this year are correct.

During the annual survey, Maryland Department of Natural Resources fishery managers examine 22 sites located in four major striped bass spawning areas. Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo

How do Warm Winters affect the Striped Bass spawn?

Striped bass spawning activity is temperature-driven and historically adult fish migrated to the Chesapeake Bay to spawn in April and May, which aligned with the seasonal arrival of zooplankton and other microscopic food sources that larval striped bass eat. However, recent winters have produced less-than-average snowfalls in the region and therefore less snowmelt to cool the rivers and streams where striped bass spawn.

Research has also shown Spring zooplankton production in the Bay is being altered by warmer winters. Fishery scientists are continuing to investigate whether higher temperatures earlier in the year are affecting the survivability of juvenile striped bass.

How Does Maryland DNR Measure the Success of a Striped Bass Spawn?

The juvenile striped bass survey documents annual year-class success for young-of-the-year striped bass and relative abundance of many other fish species in Chesapeake Bay. Annual indices of relative abundance provide an early indicator of future adult stock recruitment and document annual variation and long-term trends in abundance and distribution. Every year, fishery managers examine 22 sites located in four major striped bass 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 captured in each sample. This produces a total of 132 samples from which bay-wide means are calculated.

2023 Young-of-Year Survey Highlights

Biologists captured more than 47,000 fish of 63 different species while conducting this year’s survey. Encouraging results were documented regarding two species lower on the food chain. Menhaden abundance was the highest measured in over 30 years. Bay anchovy abundance was the highest measured since 1974. These species are very important to the ecology of the Bay as a food source for many other species of fish and wildlife.

Read the full press release from Maryland DNR

The post Chesapeake Striped Bass Reproduction Lowest in 10 Years first appeared on On The Water.

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