The striped bass “young-of-the-year” index, a measure of spawning success, was 2.2 this year, well below the long-term average of 11.7. It was the seventh lowest result tallied since the annual survey began 63 years ago.
The index represents the average number of fish less than 1 year old that were collected in 132 seine hauls through shallow water in 22 locations around the Bay.
Striped bass, also known in the Bay as rockfish, are closely watched because they support a multimillion-dollar recreational and commercial fishing industry. They are widely viewed as one of the bright spots in the 33-year Chesapeake restoration effort, as the population nearly collapsed in the 1980s, but rebounded after a five-year fishing moratorium.
David Blazer, fisheries director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, called the index “disappointing,” but said it was not a concern unless spawning is poor in multiple consecutive years.Whistling in the dark, I'm afraid. Despite the good 2011 spawn (the 2015 fish are too small to fish for yet), we have already had to reduce both the recreational and commercial quotas for Stripers. And bad years tend to come in bunches, because poor spawns for anadromous fish including striped bass have been linked to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, long term "wave" in Atlantic weather. The AMO is currently high, and trending downward, which bodes poorly for future spawns.
“Very successful spawning years, as recently as 2011 and 2015, should more than compensate for this below-average year-class,” Blazer added. “Nonetheless, the department and our partners will continue to work to maintain a sustainable fishery for our commercial watermen and recreational anglers.”
A simple "Rule 5 Tuesday" is up at The Other McCain.