Rockfish spawn disappointing, officials say

September 14, 1991|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS — ANNNAPOLIS -- The state announced yesterday that its annual survey of rockfish, or striped bass, had found subpar reproduction for the second straight year, but officials said they continue to believe the species is recovering in Maryland waters.

The young-of-the-year index -- a mathematical measure of successful reproduction from the spring spawn -- for 1991 was 4.4, the state Department of Natural Resources reported. The average is 8.6. Officials attributed the below-average count to minimal rainfall and above-normal water temperatures from early May through the summer. The spawning season can run from late April to mid-June.

"Even though the striped bass young-of-the-year index is below theaverage 8.6, this year's results are an increase from last year's value of 2.1," DNR Secretary Torrey C. Brown said in a prepared statement.

Since 1981, only three years have produced higher indexes than this year.

Since 1954, when the survey of the prized game fish was initiated, 25 years have produced higher indexes.

William P. Jensen, director of fisheries for the DNR's Tidewater Administration, said yesterday that this year's index is not as good as the super years of the 1970s, when the index steadily decreased from 30.4 in 1970 to 4.0 in 1979.

"But we are not alarmed at all," Mr. Jensen said.

"Every other index that we measure out there -- number of spawning fish on the spawning grounds, number of river systems where fish are showing up where they never

have been seen before, the general abundance of fish from 8 inches to 16 to 17 inches -- is as high as we have ever seen it."

The numbers of resident and migratory rockfish in Maryland waters this year, he said, was equal to if not greater than the prime years of the 1970s.

Decreasing numbers of rockfish in Maryland waters in the early 1980s led to a moratorium on all fishing for rockfish from 1985 to the fall of last year.

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