The abundance of small stripers along the Striper Coast the past couple of seasons is no anomaly. In fact, there is reason to be optimistic that if conservative management measures remain in place, we could see a return to the quality fishing we enjoyed in the late 90s and first several years of this decade.
Recent Young of the Year (YOY) indexes for Chesapeake Bay, which is responsible for approximately 70 percent of the stripers that roam our coast, provide plenty of reason for optimism. The indexes are a measure of striped bass spawning success, and in 2011, the Maryland Department of Natural Resource (DNR) recorded an index of 34.6, far above the long-term average of 11.9, and the fourth highest number in the Chesapeake Bay survey’s 58-year history.
That was followed by a paltry 0.9 in 2012 and a 5.8 in 2013, before rebounding to 11.0 in 2014, which was just shy of the 61 year average of 11.7. In 2015, the surveys revealed another banner year of spawning success as the index soared to 24.2, the eight highest ever recorded. In 2016 the index dropped to a disappointing 2.2 but the two banner year classes from 2011 and 2015 should more than compensate for the three below average years. The fishery will also be bolstered by two exceptionally strong year classes in the Hudson River. In 2014, New York’s Department of Conservation recorded a YOY of 24.60, followed by a just slightly lower YOY (22) in 2015.
This season should see good numbers of 7 to 10-pound schoolies from the 2011 year class, and an increase in the number of fish reaching the 28-inch minimum size limit. The strong year classes should translate into some excellent light tackle action over the next few seasons, and if management stays the course, we should begin to see an increase in the number of quality fish in the not too distant future.