by Stephanie Smith
January 06, 2017
Captain Pete Ide throws a freshly caught striped bass onto the dock in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, after a charter fishing excursion on the Chesapeake Bay on November 11, 2016.
For hundreds of years, striped bass—also known as rockfish or stripers—have been one of the most popular commercial and recreational fish in the Chesapeake Bay, which is the largest striped bass nursery area on the Atlantic coast. Experts estimate that up to 90 percent of the Atlantic striped bass population uses the Bay and its tidal tributaries to spawn.
In the early 1970s, the striped bass industry experienced record-high catches: in 1973, the commercial fishery landed 14.7 million pounds. But in the years that followed, commercial and recreational catches declined steeply, and by 1983, the harvest had fallen to just 1.7 million pounds. Scientists attributed the sharp decline primarily to overfishing, which may have made the striped bass more susceptible to stressors like changes in water temperature, low dissolved oxygen, chemical contaminants and poor water quality.
After fishing moratoria throughout the late 1980s in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay striped bass fishery re-opened in 1990. Since then, striped bass abundance in the Bay has dramatically increased. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, in 2015, the biomass of adult female striped bass along the Atlantic Coast was estimated to be 129 million pounds—above the overfishing threshold of 127 million but below the target of 159 million pounds. And while results of Maryland’s 2016 juvenile striped bass survey were well below the long-term average, scientists expect successful spawning years in 2011 and 2015 to compensate for the below-average year.
Learn more about striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.