Good News About Rockfish, with A Caution

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Good News About Rockfish, with A Caution

October 13, 2015
Capt. John Page Williams, Senior Naturalist
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

They've tallied up several hundred summertime pulls of 100-foot fine-mesh "minnow" seines from rivers all over the Chesapeake, and the news is good: Maryland's striped bass Young-of-the-Year Index is the eighth highest on record, and Virginia's is slightly stronger than the long-term average. Thanks in part to all that harsh weather last winter and spring, we have a nice crop of puppy rockfish coming along. Note good news about several other valuable species as well. Visit these links for the details:

But please also note the comment below from Bill Goldsborough, CBF's veteran Fisheries Program Director (and Maryland Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissioner):

"FYI. Very good news, obviously, especially with the frustration felt by many anglers over the downward trajectory of the rockfish stock biomass in the past several years. Chesapeake rockfish spawning provides about 75 percent of the stripers caught coastwide. Maryland's index is particularly tightly correlated to subsequent catches along the coast. These 'young-of-the-year' fish won't contribute to the Bay fishery for a few years, but this strong crop of young fish should provide relief for the angst of New England anglers who have suffered from fewer fish reaching their waters in recent years.

"One key factor for the future will be how well these 2015 fish and the larger 2011 fish (now 18-21-inches long) do as they mature here in the Bay. Scientists have documented lower survival rates during the four to six years they stay in these waters year-round before joining the seasonal coastal migration. They consider the main factors in this problem to be water quality stress (low dissolved oxygen plus high water temperatures) and reduced forage (especially young menhaden), because those conditions encourage Mycobacteriosis disease."

The antidote to water quality stress is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Please stay tuned for ways that you as anglers can help to support the Blueprint through advocacy and hands-on restoration projects. At the same time, keep informed on management of menhaden and other forage fish. You'll have opportunities to weigh in there as well.

Got questions? Feel free to e-mail or call me, jpwilliams@cbf.org or 443-482-2041. Thanks for your interest in Anglers for Clean Water!

 

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