Striped bass are one of the most popular recreational species for saltwater anglers. Yet, the species faces many challenges. Stripers were declared overfished in 2019 and remain in that condition. Recruitment–spawning success, how many new stripers enter the population–is now a major challenge towards rebuilding; 2023 marks the fifth consecutive year of poor spawns out of the Chesapeake Bay, which is the most important producer area.

On October 12, 2023, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced the results of its annual Young-of-Year Striped Bass Survey. “The 2023 young-of-year index is 1.0, well below the long-term average of 11.1,” according to the press release. Generally speaking, striped bass need cold, wet springs to produce a good spawn. The Mid-Atlantic region has not had that, and several major Chesapeake tributaries had terribly low flows this past spring. While good spawns are largely driven by environmental conditions out of human control, there needs to be fish dispersed across the spawning systems and diverse age structure to take advantage of those good environmental conditions. Many in the Bay have been sounding the alarm that the Bay’s population of stripers is reaching alarmingly low levels and may be a contributing factor to this string of poor spawns.

Graph of historic juvenile striped bass index

The Virginia survey also found a poor spawn in the state’s portion of the Chesapeake: “The 2023 value is significantly lower than the historic average of 7.77 fish per seine haul and is a notable decrease in annual recruitment compared with recent years in which catches of striped bass were rated average or above average.”

The American Saltwater Guides Association has been at the forefront of striped bass management and is working to ensure that the management body (The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission) rebuilds this fishery ahead of the 2029 deadline and that, once again, the entire coast can benefit from and enjoy an abundant striped bass population in the near-term and long into the future. The ASMFC just released for public comment a management action to bring fishing mortality back down to acceptable levels, and the ASGA will need your support to help get this iconic fishery back on track!

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