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May 11, 2013

Right on schedule, stripers are here

(Continued)

It is early in the season, but Moulton said there are some encouraging signs for the fish population this year. One of the key indicators is a good run of river herring and shad this year. Anecdotal information from fishing website forums and news stories indicate that large runs of herring have been seen in rivers all along the Massachusetts coast this year. State fisheries officials did not return calls by press deadline.

Moulton said another indicator is the presence of small stripers, 8 or so inches long. For the past couple years these small fish were rarely caught in this area, leading fishermen to believe that the overall striper population is declining. Moulton said their presence might indicate that the stock is rebounding, at least locally.

Fisheries officials who monitor the striped bass population in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, according to a report by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, last fall’s survey of newly spawned stripers showed the lowest levels in the 59-year history of the monitoring program. It was an aberration, as the results of the prior year’s survey was the fourth highest on record.

“While we expect large variation in striped bass reproduction from year to year and do not view this low value as an imminent problem, we will be carefully monitoring the results of future surveys,” said DNR Fisheries Director Tom O’Connell in a statement. “Three consecutive years of poor reproduction would be necessary to trigger mandatory conservation measures.”

Striped bass spawning success can vary dramatically from year to year. Environmental conditions such as water flow rates and water temperature influence spawning success. The highly successful years of 1989, 1996, and 2001 were followed by below-average years.

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