Spawn­ing didn’t go well for striped bass this year

Record Observer - - Sports - CHRIS KNAUSS

The 2016 young-of-the-year striped bass in­dex, a mea­sure of bass spawn­ing suc­cess in Mary­land’s por­tion of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay is 2.2, well be­low the 63-year av­er­age of 11.7, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources. The in­dex rep­re­sents the av­er­age num­ber of lessthan-1-year-old fish caught in 132 sam­ples dur­ing the Ju­ve­nile Striped Bass Sur­vey.

“While this year’s striped bass in­dex is dis­ap­point­ing, it is not a con­cern un­less we ob­serve poor spawn­ing in mul­ti­ple, con­sec­u­tive years,” said Fish­ing and Boat­ing Ser­vices Di­rec­tor David Blazer. “Very suc­cess­ful spawn­ing years, as re­cently as 2011 and 2015, should more than com­pen­sate for this be­lowa­v­er­age year-class. Nonethe­less, the depart­ment and our part­ners will con­tinue to work to main­tain a sus­tain­able fish­ery for our com­mer­cial wa­ter­men and recre­ational an­glers.”

Striped bass typ­i­cally show great vari­abil­ity in spawn­ing suc­cess from year-to-year. Oc­ca­sional large year-classes are pro­duced but are nor­mally in­ter­spersed with av­er­age or be­lowa­v­er­age year-classes. One-yearold striped bass from last year’s very suc­cess­ful year-class were found in abun­dance. These fish will sup­port lo­cal fish­eries in the fu­ture and later join the coastal spawn­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Sur­vey re­sults in­di­cate that most anadro­mous species — fish that re­turn to fresh­wa­ter to spawn — ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­larly low re­pro­duc­tion in 2016, po­ten­tially in­di­cat­ing that en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors such as dry weather and low river flows dur­ing the spring sea­son may have contributed to the poor re­sults. Spring sur­veys found nor­mal num­bers of striped bass fe­males on the spawn­ing grounds; how­ever, sen­si­tive egg and lar­val stages of­ten don’t sur vive ad­verse con­di­tions.

The depart­ment has mon­i­tored the re­pro­duc­tive suc­cess of striped bass and other fish in the bay since 1954. The sur­vey is con­ducted an­nu­ally at

des­ig­nated sites dis­trib­uted through­out four ma­jor spawn­ing ar­eas. Dur­ing this year’s sur­vey, fish­eries bi­ol­o­gists col­lected and iden­ti­fied over 38,000 fish of 62 dif­fer­ent species, in­clud­ing 291 young-of-year striped bass.

* * * The word from CBEF Ac­cord­ing to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Eco­log­i­cal Foun­da­tion, the At­lantic States Marine Fish­eries Com­mis­sion “has failed to pro­tect small, young men­haden, cru­cial prey for non-mi­gra­tory adult Ch­e­sa­peake Bay striped bass. The men­haden har­vest should be based on quo­tas and size lim­its that pro­tect the striped bass prey sup­ply. How­ever, the ASMFC is pro­mot­ing a man­age­ment scheme based on the es­ti­mated size of the men­haden spawn­ing stock, which is un­cor­re­lated with the abun­dance of young men­haden in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. CBEF re­search de­ter­mined that low­er­ing the striped bass size limit and/ or es­tab­lish­ing a men­haden min­i­mum size for the purse seine in­dus­trial fish­ery is es­sen­tial for main­te­nance of healthy Ch­e­sa­peake Bay adult striped bass.”

CBEF has based its con­clu­sions on the re­sults of the only long-term (2005-2015), year-round nutri­tional and food-habit study on adult striped bass, ex­am­in­ing over 15,000 fish and ma­jor prey con­sumed — pri­mar­ily At­lantic men­haden. Study ar­eas in­cluded Chop­tank River, Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and the At­lantic Coast from Mon­tauk, New York to Ore­gon In­let, North Carolina.

*** More time for black pow­der The first seg­ment of Mary­land’s Muz­zleloader Deer Sea­son opened Thurs­day and ended Satur­day, but hunters in our re­gion, Re­gion B, can also use muz­zleload­ers from Oct. 24-29 for antler­less deer only. To­day, Sun­day, is also open on the MidShore for antler­less deer in all but Kent County.

As a re­minder, the statewide bag limit for antlered white-tailed deer (bucks) is one per weapon sea­son (i.e., archery, muz­zleloader and firearm). Re­gion B hunters can take one ad­di­tional bonus buck af­ter pur­chas­ing a Bonus Antlered Deer Stamp and tak­ing two antler­less deer. Antler­less deer bag lim­its dif­fer be­tween the re­gions.

*** A great time to fish Oc­to­ber is a great time for an­glers when the weather co­op­er­ates as both fresh­wa­ter and salt­wa­ter fish species shift to an ac­tive feed­ing pat­tern.

The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay’s striped bass are feed­ing heav­ily now and ver­ti­cal jig­ging over sus­pended fish or cast­ing to break­ing fish can pro­vide some ex­cit­ing light-tackle ac­tion. Trolling deep with in­line weights in front of um­brella rigs or tan­dem buck­tails and swim shads, which can usu­ally be pulled be­hind plan­ers, is also an op­tion. How­ever, find­ing fish over 20 inches still can be chal­leng­ing.

Small gray trout are also be­ing caught while jig­ging and many are mea­sur­ing over the 13-inch min­i­mum. Fish are feed­ing on men­haden and bay an­chovies.

Some of the bet­ter lo­ca­tions to check for work­ing birds and sus­pended fish are Eastern Bay, Thomas Point to Dolly’s Lump, the False Chan­nel, and the mouth of the Lit­tle Chop­tank.

Fish­ing along the shore­lines of the bay and ti­dal rivers is also a fun way to catch stripers with top­wa­ter lures. Wa­ter tem­per­a­tures are in the up­per 60s, so the rock­fish feel com­fort­able in ei­ther shal­low or deeper wa­ters. Oth­ers are hav­ing good luck cast­ing jerk­baits and swim shads from boats, lo­cal docks, and shore­lines in the morn­ing and evening hours.

White perch can be found in a wide va­ri­ety of wa­ter depths right now. Bot­tom fish­ing with pieces of blood­worms on hooks or small jigs is a great way to fish the deeper wa­ters. Small lures and ul­tra-light fish­ing tackle are a good choice for fish­ing shore­line struc­ture ar­eas.

Plenty of blue crabs can still be caught and now that many com­mer­cial crab­bers have switched over to oys­ter­ing there is a lit­tle more el­bow room. The bet­ter catches tend to be com­ing from the lower sec­tions of the bay’s ti­dal rivers and deep.

On the fresh­wa­ter scene, DNR fish­eries staff are busy stock­ing trout this month. You can check the trout stock­ing web­site each day to see what has been stocked, or sign up on the fish­eries email sub­scribers list and you will be no­ti­fied by email.

Large­mouth bass are freely mov­ing in var­i­ous wa­ter depths through­out much of the day. Shal­low ar­eas can be tar­geted with top­wa­ter lures. Sunken wood and grass in in­ter­me­di­ate depths are a good place to try whacky-rigged stick worms, small crankbaits and spin­ner­baits.

*** Duck blind know-it-all White perch (Morone amer­i­cana) is not a true perch but is, rather, a fish of the tem­per­ate bass fam­ily, Moronidae.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @csknauss Email me at

ck­nauss@star­dem.com

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