MD striped bass spawn better but still below average

Striped bass reproduction in Maryland waters improved this year, but remained well below average, state officials announced.

The Department of Natural Resources said that its 2013 striped-bass juvenile index, a measure of spawning success in the Chesapeake Bay, is 5.8. That's much better than last year's tally of 0.9, but only about half the 60-year average of 11.7.

“Several years of average reproduction mixed with large and small year-classes are typical for Striped Bass,” DNR Fisheries Director Tom O’Connell said in the press release announcing the results. “For example, as recently as 2011, we saw the fourth-highest spawning success in the survey’s history.”

Striped Bass - also known as rockfish in Maryland, where they're the state fish - spawn in the spring, with females each producing millions of eggs. The survival of their eggs and larvae depends largely on weather-related conditions at the time, such as water temperature, salinity and flow rates.

State biologists survey four major fish spawning areas - the Choptank, Potomac, and Nanticoke rivers and the upper bay - from July through September, netting and tallying thousands of juvenile fish to assess the year's spawning success. The juvenile index represents the average number of young-of-year fish found per net haul.

Maryland's management of striped bass is subject to review by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, as the fish migrate outside the bay and are a highly prized catch among sport anglers coastwide. The federally authorized interstate commission has a policy of reviewing a state's management if reproduction is poor three years in a row.  Though sub-par, the 2013 juvenile index isn't low enough to meet the commission's definition of poor, according to DNR.

Striped bass reproduction in Virginia waters rebounded this year from the 2012 low, with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reporting finding an average number of young-of-year fish in its annual survey.

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