The state of Maryland has released the annual young of the year index for striped bass, and while the number is better than last year, it is still well below the 60-year average.
The index measures how well striped bass spawn each year in the Chesapeake Bay. Numbers were released on Friday by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
This year’s index is 5.8. Last year, the Maryland index for striped bass was .9, a historic low. The 60-year average is 11.7. “Several years of average reproduction mixed with large and small year-classes are typical for striped bass,” said Maryland state fisheries Director Tom O’Connell, in a release published on the state web page Friday. “As recently as 2011, we saw the fourth-highest spawning success in the survey’s history,” the release said. The Maryland index that year was 34.6
It takes at least six years for a striped bass to reach a length of 28 inches, the minimum size allowed for harvest by recreational fishermen in Massachusetts. It takes up to 10 years for a bass to reach 34 inches, the minimum size allowed for commercial harvest in the commonwealth.
With the Vineyard fishing derby just ending, fishermen report seeing smaller stripers this year. A total of 487 striped bass were weighed in during the monthlong contest. Last year 466 bass were weighed in.
Statewide, commercial and rod and reel fishermen landed over a million pounds of striped bass this year.
Mike Armstrong, assistant director for the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said the young of the year index will be on the agenda for discussion at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting this week in Philadelphia. Mr. Armstrong said fisheries managers are watching the striped bass closely; he described the numbers as low, but within sustainable range.
“We see that the legal-size striped bass will be sparse in the next few years,” Mr. Armstrong said. “We have a six-year hole that we have to weather.” He noted that the last big spawning of striped bass was in 2011 and those fish are the schoolies that are being seen in the state waters now.
Buddy Vanderhoop, a charter fisherman from Aquinnah, said while he had a good summer for catching striped bass, the numbers of fish seen around the Vineyard were down this fall, which he blamed on above-normal water temperatures for the area. He said the big fish are still north of the Cape and have yet to migrate south.
Mr. Vanderhoop said he had a conversation recently with a fisherman who is still seeing big fish in Maine. “We have another glut of fish coming our way,” Mr. Vanderhoop said.
Mr. Armstrong said the ASMFC meeting this week will examine the overall health of striped bass and discuss whether further conservation measures are needed. “It will be the topic, do we need to do anything?” he said.