Striped Bass

Striped bass, also called rockfish, are key predators in the Chesapeake Bay food web and support one of the Bay's most popular fisheries.

Line graph illustrating the estimated weight of the mature female striped bass population from 1990 to 2018.

Striped Bass

Striped bass—also known as rockfish or stripers—support one of the most important commercial and recreational fisheries on the Atlantic Coast, and the Chesapeake Bay provides these fish with critical spawning and nursery grounds. To monitor the health of the striped bass population, scientists track the biomass of adult female striped bass and the relative abundance of striped bass that are less than one year old.

151 million

The weight, in pounds, of adult female striped bass along the Atlantic Coast

According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the biomass of adult female striped bass along the Atlantic Coast weighed an estimated 151 million pounds in 2017. This is below the target of 252 million pounds and below the overfished threshold of 202 million pounds. Despite recent declines in biomass, the stock is still above the mid-late 1980s moratorium levels.

To survey young striped bass, scientists use seine nets to sample in known striped bass spawning areas. The average number of juveniles (less than one year old) caught in each seine haul is used to calculate the juvenile striped bass index. These young-of-year fish will grow to a fishable size in three to four years. 

The 2021 young-of-year index is 3.2 in Maryland waters, which is slightly higher than last year, but still well below the long-term average of 11.4. Striped bass reproductive success varies from year to year, but the below average index is a concern that biologists will continue to study. In Virginia waters, the index is 6.30, which is similar to the historic average of 7.77 and represents the ninth consecutive year of average or above-average recruitment in Virginia waters. This suggests that abundance of juvenile striped bass in Virginia has been relatively stable.

These juvenile striped bass indices serve as early indicators of future adult fish abundance and help managers predict the amount of adult fish that will be available for commercial and recreational fishermen. Occasional strong years for striped bass spawning play a major role in keeping the population healthy. 

Multi-state fishing bans set in the late 1980s and harvest limits set in the 1990s were critical to rebuilding the striped bass stock from historically low levels in the mid-1980s. Currently, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) works to ensure long-term recovery for Atlantic striped bass coast-wide and regularly evaluates the status of the population through stock assessments. The most recent stock assessment released in 2019 will guide decision making over the next few years to support striped bass fisheries management.  

Based on the best available science, ASMFC sets harvest regulations to maintain a sustainable striped bass fishery. State partners also play an important role tracking harvest and population health in Maryland and Virginia waters.