Spawning didn’t go well for striped bass this year
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.
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