The Future of Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass

Striped bass (also known as rockfish or stripers) are some of the most iconic fish in the Chesapeake Bay. Every summer, researchers in Maryland and Virginia conduct juvenile striped bass surveys in the Bay’s tidal rivers, where young striped bass spend the first months of their lives. In a few years, these tiny fish grow into large striped bass prized by anglers up and down the East Coast.

Data from the survey gives valuable insight into the future of the striped bass population and is an important tool in setting fisheries regulations. The Chesapeake Bay and its rivers form a key nursery area for striped bass, and clean water here is critical to the future of the fishery.

The importance of improving water quality and habitat in shallow-water areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed was one of many findings in the recent Comprehensive Evaluation of System Response (CESR) report, which focuses on improving Bay restoration. The report outlines key findings that could accelerate progress in both the near and long term—including focusing on shallow water restoration. While Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts traditionally have focused on water quality in the Bay’s deep channel, cleanup efforts can achieve much greater success much sooner in shallow areas. Accelerating restoration of the Bay’s tidal rivers would have many benefits for the region’s people, communities, and fisheries. 


The Chesapeake Bay and its rivers are a key nursery for striped bass. For decades, Virginia and Maryland have each conducted juvenile striped bass surveys giving insight into the striped bass population's future.

In the summer, researchers pull a large seine net in the Bay's rivers. They survey the same sites every year using the same methods.Here the Virginia Institute of Marine Science surveys the James River.

Striped bass begin their lives in tidal rivers. Fish are picke out of the net and spearated by species. Striped bass are measured electronically and data automatically logged.

In a few years, these tiny fish become the iconic striped bass prized by anglers.

The survey creates an index of how many striped bass juveniles are produce each year. The juvenile striped bass index is an important tool in setting fisheries regulations. Clean water and healthy habitat in these tidal rivers is critical to the future of striped bass.

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