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Bay's 2015 rockfish spawn "robust" in Maryland, average in Virginia

After three sub-par years, the number of juvenile striped bass in Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay this summer climbed to the 8th highest level in more than six decades, according to Maryland natural resources officials.

Virginia biologists, meanwhile, reported finding an average abundance of juvenile striped bass in their portion of the bay.

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Maryland biologists surveying the Choptank, Potomac and Nanticoke rivers and the upper bay tallied an average of 24.2 young striped bass for ever haul of their seine fishing net, the Department of Natural Resources reported. That's about twice the long-term average for the annual survey, which began in 1954.

Maryland's state fish, also known as rockfish, is closely monitored because it supports a multi-million dollar recreational and commercial fishing industry that employs thousands. The upper bay is the spawning ground and nursery for three-fourths of the striped bass that migrate along the East Coast.

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DNR Secretary Mark Belton said in a statement that this year's results show that "striped bass are a very resilient species when given favorable environmental conditions for reproduction and survival. The robust reproduction should give Maryland anglers hope for a successful striped bass season in a few years time."

The good news this week comes just three years after the annual survey found a record low number of palm-sized rockfish. The "young-of-the-year" index improved in each of the past two years, but remained below the long-term average.

Virginia biologists' check of the Rappahannock, York and James rivers yielded about 12 young fish per haul, which state officials said was statistically equivalent to the long-term average there of nine. It was the third straight year of average abundance seen there since the 2012 low, according to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Other fish also showed up in good numbers in Maryland's survey. Biologists reported a record tally of juvenile American shad, which have been under a harvest ban in state waters since 1980. Young white perch hit their third highest level, and an above-average number of juvenile river herring were seen.

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