Juvenile rockfish index steady, but overall figure shows drop DNR's Griffin says cold, dry spring possible culprit

November 02, 1997|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

For the sixth consecutive year, the juvenile index for rockfish in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries registered "at or above the level described as indicating healthy reproduction."

However, the overall index of 8.0 announced by the Department of Natural Resources last week, is below the long-term average of 10.7.

The index is the result of readings taken at 22 sites in the four major spawning systems -- the head of the bay, Choptank, Nanticoke and Potomac rivers. Each site is sampled twice by net each month from July through September and the index is the number of juvenile rockfish counted divided by the total number of samples.

The best production this year was in the head of the bay (8.3) and the Potomac (10.6), but the Choptank (7.3) and Nanticoke (3.5) were well below the record readings of the past several years.

"Annual fluctuation of indices is typical, even during periods of stable spawning populations," said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin. "Varying weather patterns can greatly influence reproductive success. The cold and dry spring of 1997 probably was responsible for a decrease from recent high years in [juvenile] indices of all anadromous species."

According to the survey results, bluefish counts produced an index of 0.89, the highest level since the 1980s, and the croaker index was 1.16, indicating the third year of good to excellent reproduction since 1991. Only two good croaker years had been documented in the previous 15 years.

Potomac smallmouths

Since the floods of 1996, Potomac River fishing guide Ken Penrod of Life Outdoors Unlimited has bemoaned the status of )) smallmouth bass in the upper part of the river.

In his weekly fishing report, however, Penrod now is saying smallmouth bass fishing on the river "can be summed up in one word -- awesome.

"There is no doubt less fish in this river as a result of the 1996 floods," said Penrod, who has fished the Potomac for 35 years and claims he never has seen a better fall. "But the survivors have less competition for available food. They are as heavy as I've ever seen them."

River levels have been low, Penrod cautions, but low water has concentrated the fish in deeper pockets and ledges. Good areas to fish are Taylors Landing to Snyders Landing, Lander, White's Ferry and Edwards Ferry.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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