Striped bass index up from last year

The Baltimore Sun

The annual census of baby striped bass shows a slightly above average number of new Chesapeake Bay residents, state fisheries officials said yesterday.

A preliminary reading of the Young of the Year survey, conducted by the Department of Natural Resources, shows a reproduction index in the range of 13 to 15, above the 54-year average of 12. Last year, the index was 4.3.

"It's not a dominant year class, but this class on top of other dominant year classes ensures fish will be in the pipeline for years to come," said Howard King, DNR's Fisheries Service chief.

The survey is studied by scientists, used to set fishing quotas by regulators and eagerly awaited by anglers, who want to know what they'll be catching years from now. The index seesaws from one year to the next, but as long as there isn't a multiple-year drop, fisheries biologists aren't alarmed. For example, in 2002, it was just 4.73. But in 2003, the index was 25.75.

The state has 22 sampling sites in the four primary spawning systems: the Upper Bay and the Choptank, Nanticoke and Potomac rivers.

Once a month from July through September, biologists take a 100-foot-long, 4-foot-high seine and see how many fish born that spring they can scoop up in two passes. The index number is derived from the average number of juvenile fish caught in 132 hauls of the net. So if there are 132 fish caught in 132 samplings, the index number is 1.

The Atlantic States Marines Fisheries Commission will meet in Annapolis late next month to review Maryland's 2008 striped bass plan.

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