The 2022 Delaware River Striped Bass Recruitment Seine Survey completed sampling for the months of June and July. According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) the total number of striped bass caught during June was 99 fish, with 42 of those preliminarily determined to be young-of-year (age 0). These totals rank June 2022 as #15 out of the 19 years that sampling was completed in June, and only slightly below the totals caught in June 2019 (the last year that June sampling occurred).
The total number of striped bass caught in July was 203 fish, with 171 of those (84%) preliminarily determined to be young-of-year. These totals rank July 2022 as #20 out of the 27 years that sampling was completed in July and are less than the 305 young-of-year caught in July 2019 (last year that July sampling occurred).
“Sampling continues through October,” said Al Ivany, Information & Education Bureau Chief at NJDEP, adding “We do two sampling ‘rounds’ per month, with each station sampled during each round.” These stations are spread out along the tidal portion of the Delaware River between Cumberland County in the south and Mercer County to the north, with stations located on both sides of the river in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
The survey area is divided into three tidal regions with 32 fixed stations, eight in Region 1, 16 in Region 2 and eight in Region 3. Region 1 is the southernmost sampling area and is described by NJDEP as “a brackish region extending from the spring saltwater/freshwater interface to the Delaware Memorial Bridges.” Region 2 is the central sampling area and is a brackish to freshwater area extending from the Delaware Memorial Bridges to the Schuylkill River. Region 3 is the northernmost sampling area, a freshwater area that extends from Philadelphia to the fall line at Trenton. Regions 1 and 2 represent historical striped bass spawning grounds.
Sampling seasons have varied over the years; currently, each station is sampled once in June and bi-monthly from July through October, resulting in 288 seine hauls each year. The seine survey is a Fishery-Independent Monitoring Project required by the Interstate Fisheries Management Plan for Striped Bass. It is the NJDEP Bureau of Marine Fisheries’ longest running fishery-independent survey beginning in 1980 when striped bass stocks were severely depleted. It is primarily a juvenile striped bass abundance survey.
In addition to striped bass, target species include alewife, American shad, Atlantic croaker, Atlantic menhaden, Atlantic silverside, bay anchovy, black drum, blue crab, blueback herring, bluefish, hickory shad, spot, summer flounder, weakfish, white perch and winter flounder. Annual abundance indices are calculated for many species using data collected from the survey; most being reported as the number of fish caught per seine haul.
During the first three decades of sampling, data from this and similar surveys in other states reflected an increase in the striped bass population along the East Coast. Since 2010, recruitment has been variable, and the Delaware River index has not been indicative of the coastwide trend. A final report on the 2022 Delaware River Striped Bass Recruitment Seine Survey should be available by the end of the year.