As striped bass begin their annual to migration to the Chesapeake Bay and other spawning grounds, local fishermen can look forward to another few years of decent fishing. But a sudden drop in the number of juveniles in 2012 will eventually reverberate up the coast.
This year’s juvenile index, announced in October, was the highest since 2011 and the eighth highest on record. The average number of juveniles counted at 22 sites around the bay was 24.2, more than double the 60-year average of 11.9. The figure has increased every year since 2012.
The young-of-year index, compiled by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has varied between around one and 60 since 1954 when the counts began. The numbers tracked the collapse of the striped bass fishery in the 1970s and 1980s and its recovery in the 1990s following a coast-wide moratorium.
Gary Nelson, fish biology program manager for the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said this week that the annual counts closely follow the pattern of catch rates in Massachusetts, although it takes four or five years for the fish to arrive in local waters.
He estimated that about 70 per cent of the local catch comes from the Chesapeake Bay, with the rest arriving from the Hudson and Delaware Rivers.
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