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  #1  
Old 10-04-2011, 12:48 PM
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Default Striped Bass - History & Habitat

One of my favorite subjects of study lately has been the history & habitat of striped bass. I think that getting a sense of the bigger picture has helped me develop a deeper appreciation for striped bass, especially in light of current challenges facing the management of this fishery. The purpose of this thread is to attempt to pass along some of this to you, and hopefully spark some discussion on different topics that will arise through this study.

I will draw heavily from sources including ASMFC documents (incl. ACDFH HMS#9 (2009), et al.), published studies, internet search engines, and personal observation, and also will attempt to keep it an easy read. This will be an ongoing thread that will be comprised of many many posts, each adding another piece to the puzzle.

Feel free to ask questions, but in order to keep this thread on track and congruent, I may at times split questions/answers off into their own threads.
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  #2  
Old 10-04-2011, 12:48 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

The striped bass (Morone saxatilis) was one of the first fish species in North America to be actively used and managed by society. Historically, striped bass was a highly important subsistence, commercial, and recreational species to Native Americans for millennia, and to European travelers and invaders beginning with the Vikings for centuries. Their importance as a harvested species continues into the present. Aside from their importance to humans, it is likely that striped bass provide several highly important ecosystem functions, including structuring fish and invertebrate communities through predation, and providing trophic linkages between productive rivers and estuaries and the coastal Atlantic Ocean. From this perspective, the striped bass may be seen as an indicator of estuarine and coastal health and habitat quality.

The importance of this fish species remains undiminished today, and if anything, the relatively recent collapse (early 1980's) and restoration (1995+) of the migratory striped bass population and fishery has only heightened public interest in management efforts.

The Chesapeake Bay is the epicenter of migratory striped bass abundance and production on the East Coast. However, other estuaries from the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, to the St. Lawrence River, Canada, as well as the nearshore Atlantic Ocean, contribute to production and are essential for the long-term survival and sustainability of the species.

The striped bass is an anadromous, schooling species with a historic native range extending discontinuously from the Canadian Maritime Provinces to the Gulf of Mexico.

On the Atlantic coast, the range of striped bass is continuous from the St. Lawrence River and southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, to the St. Johns River, Florida. The species is absent from southeast and southwest Florida rivers below roughly 29EN latitude; it appears again in the Gulf of Mexico from the Suwannee River, Florida, to Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana.
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:49 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Many striped bass in Atlantic Coast rivers from Albemarle Sound, North Carolina, to the St. Lawrence River are migratory as adults. They travel annually from oceanic waters to riverine spawning grounds and back to the ocean, where they undertake a northern summer migration and southward winter migration. However, recent studies of otolith microchemistry (Morris et al. 2003; Zlokovitz et al. 2003) indicate that striped bass residing in some longer river systems (Roanoke River, North Carolina, and Hudson River, New York, respectively) may exhibit multiple life history strategies, with some individuals remaining year-round in the upper freshwater portion of the system. Additionally, one group of individuals resides in the lower river and upper estuary, another group migrates to the coastal ocean, and a final group exhibits a mid-life habitat shift between freshwater and saltwater environments.

Striped bass populations south of Albemarle Sound, North Carolina, and in the Gulf of Mexico are thought to be endemic to each river system, and are considered essentially nonmigratory by most researchers. However, it might be that past and present management measures used for these stocks have largely precluded most fish from reaching a minimum size for migration (i.e., small size limits and liberal bag limits that, in combination, effectively maintain an artificially young age structure for a species well-documented to live to at least age 30).

Historic and recent recaptures of tagged striped bass suggest that migratory behavior in southeastern stocks is displayed by at least some small percentage of larger individuals. Hess et al. (1999) reported that movement between the adjacent Savannah and Ogeechee rivers in Georgia has occasionally occurred via coastal waters. For example, a striped bass tagged in Alligator Creek (a tributary to the Cape Fear River, North Carolina) on February 18, 2004, was captured by an angler on May 13, 2005, at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.

Additionally, two striped bass populations on the Atlantic coast, one in the John H. Kerr Reservoir on the North Carolina/Virginia border and another in the Santee-Cooper Reservoirs in South Carolina, developed upstream spawning migrations to reservoir tributaries after downstream migration was precluded by dam construction.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:49 AM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Historical records indicate striped bass occurrences ranging from Texas to the Suwannee River, Florida. Though once common, currently a small population in the Apalachicola River System in Florida represents all that remains of the original Gulf striped bass. Striped bass in other Gulf river systems exist because of stocking efforts and are primarily of Atlantic origin.

The decline of striped bass in the Gulf of Mexico is thought to have occurred before or during the 1960s, and is thought to have been due to a variety of factors, including pesticides and other contaminants, water control structures, and channelization of rivers. In response to this decline, the Gulf States began an extensive effort in the late 1960s to re-establish striped bass through a region-wide stocking program. Since that time, a number of other accomplishments, including habitat and water quality enhancements, have made environmental conditions more suitable to striped bass; however, channelization and dams continue to plague restoration efforts.

Striped bass restoration activities conducted through the GSMFC have been primarily related to planning for research, data, and management needs striped bass. The ultimate goal of the striped bass work is to establish naturally reproducing populations of striped bass in coastal drainages in which such populations historically occurred. River systems of significance include, but are not limited to, the Sabine River in Texas and Louisiana, the Mississippi and Pearl Rivers in Louisiana and Mississippi, the Pascagoula River in Mississippi, and several river systems in northern Florida, including the Apalachicola and Blackwater Rivers, among others.

In 1986, prior to the implementation of the GSMFC Sport Fish Restoration Administrative Program, the GSMFC developed and adopted an interstate fishery management plan (FMP) for striped bass. In the years since the implementation of the program, the Anadromous Fish Subcommittee has completed a number of activities to provide guidelines and coordination for the restoration of striped bass in the Gulf of Mexico region. All publications related to this subject area are available from the GSMFC office. Several of the most significant achievements include a 1991 document entitled " A Strategic Plan for Restoration and Management of Gulf of Mexico Anadromous Fisheries," a 1992 regulatory amendment to the interstate fishery management plan for striped bass, and a series of projects to identify the genotypes of striped bass collected from Gulf of Mexico coastal waters. The GSMFC has established a data base for striped bass in the Gulf of Mexico, which includes the distribution of genotypes. This is particularly important regarding the current use of Gulf genotypes for the production of fry and fingerling used for stock enhancement in the Gulf region.
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Old 10-06-2011, 05:03 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

On the Pacific coast, striped bass were brought from the Atlantic and introduced in the San Francisco Bay estuary in 1879 and 1882, and have since spread north to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and south to Baja California, Mexico. The species has also been widely stocked in inland reservoirs and coastal rivers in the United States and abroad (France, Portugal and Russia).
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Old 10-06-2011, 05:04 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Striped bass life stages for the purposes of this thread are defined as follows.

Eggs are extruded, fertilized, or unfertilized ova.
Yolk-sac larvae are newly hatched individuals that usually range in length from 0.08” to 0.15”, with a maximum length of 0.24” to 0.28” prior to yolk absorption.
Larvae are individuals that have completely absorbed the yolk sac, but have not yet acquired the minimum adult fin ray complement and assumption of adult body form. Larvae range in size from 0.2” to 1.42”, and include the finfold and postfinfold larval stages as described by some authors.
Juveniles range from 1.42” to approximately 6.9” for males and 17” for females, and have acquired the minimum adult fin ray complement, but have yet to reach sexual maturity.
Adults are any fish these lengths or larger that have reached sexual maturity.
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Old 10-06-2011, 05:05 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Habitat Suitability Index Models (HSI models)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed several Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) models for various applications to striped bass stocks. In one instance, Bain and Bain (1982) developed a model for estuarine-associated coastal stocks of striped bass that contains individual components corresponding to the spawning, egg, larval, juvenile, and adult life history stages. The model is intended for use year-round on estuarine associated striped bass stocks located on the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts of the United States. This model can yield one HSI value for the entire life cycle of the striped bass, if all components are used, or individual HSI values can be generated for each life stage. The model was not designed for evaluation of marine habitat. It is also not applicable to areas where partial or extensive reduction in habitat availability has occurred due to contamination by toxic substances.

Habitat parameters required for running the model include: 1) For riverine habitats percent of natural river discharge, maximum total dissolved solids, average water temperature, minimum dissolved oxygen, and average current velocity; and 2) For estuarine habitats- percent of original salt marsh, percent of original freshwater input to estuary, average water temperature, average salinity, and minimum and average dissolved oxygen. This model assumes that striped bass habitat suitability is primarily associated with water quality (physicochemical conditions) during most life stages. However, food availability and water quantity are obviously particularly important life requisites.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Charleston Ecological Services Field Office modified the Bain and Bain (1982) striped bass model for use on the Savannah River, Georgia/South Carolina (EuDaly 2002). The HSI was developed specifically to assess the modeled impacts of Savannah Harbor deepening on striped bass spawning, egg, and larval habitats through changes in flow velocity, dissolved oxygen, and salinity concentrations caused by channel modifications. This modified model may have application potential in tributaries where migratory striped bass spawn closer to the estuary.

Another model, developed by Crance (1984), applies to riverine (river) or lacustrine (lake) habitat of striped bass throughout the 48 conterminous states. The lacustrine component of the model is generally inapplicable for migratory striped bass. The riverine model applies during the spawning season, and can be used to assess spawning habitat for those populations that spawn in the inland portions of East Coast rivers.

The minimum length of river required for riverine reproductive habitat in this model is about 32.7 miles. This estimate may not represent the actual minimum river length required if:
1) eggs are not moving at water velocity;
2) water temperature varies from optimal; or
3) the distance required is increased by suspension of the newly-hatched embryo (suspension may be required for about 15 hours post-hatch). Variables required to run the riverine spawning habitat model include: water temperature; dissolved oxygen concentration; and current velocity (Crance 1984). At the time of its publication, the model had not been field-tested. Both of the striped bass models developed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Bain and Bain (1982) and Crance (1984)) are available on the internet at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center website: http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/hsi/hsiintro.htm
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Old 10-06-2011, 05:10 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Merriman (1937) indicated that spawning probably occurred historically in every river of any size in the northeastern United States where proper conditions were present. The present range of migratory striped bass documented as returning regularly from the Atlantic Ocean to coastal rivers to spawn is from the Roanoke and Chowan River tributaries of Albemarle Sound in North Carolina to the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

In general, juveniles migrate downstream in summer and fall, while adults migrate upriver to spawn in spring, later returning downstream to the lower river, estuary, or ocean. Additionally, inland spawning migration extent has been altered by construction of dams that prevent access to some historic spawning habitats.

The principal spawning areas for migratory striped bass along the Atlantic coast are located in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers and the Hudson River. Additional migratory stock spawning habitats located in the Delaware River, Roanoke River, and Canadian Atlantic rivers, are believed to make smaller contributions to coastal fisheries. Riverine stocks in North Carolina south of Albemarle Sound (Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, Cape Fear, and Northeast Cape Fear) are believed to make minor, if any, contributions to the coastal migratory stock. However, fish tagged in the Atlantic Ocean have been recaptured in Pamlico Sound during the spring, which suggests that some exchange historically occurred. As noted by Richards and Rago (1999), however, composition of the coastal stock varies, and is a function of variable reproductive success in given spawning areas, spawning adult year-class strength, and season.

In the southern portion of the range, the Roanoke River’s contribution to the coastal migratory stock has historically been a small percentage, with some authors stating the stock was less migratory than others (Hassler et al. 1981; Boreman and Lewis 1987; Haeseker et al. 1996). However, the Roanoke stock was historically fished at a high rate, and fish were harvested at an early age such that from 1956 through 1990, the recruited fish consisted predominantly of individuals aged two and three (NC SBSMB 1991). Few fish from the stock were surviving to an age when migratory behavior would typically be initiated. Current management measures for the stock entail a delayed harvest and lower fishing rate that provide for a broadened age structure. Under this management scheme, the percentage of migratory fish is likely to increase. The Roanoke River-Ablemarle Sound stock was declared recovered by the ASMFC in 1997.

Farther north, the Chesapeake Bay tributaries are thought to be the most productive spawning grounds, and have contributed as much as 90% of Atlantic coastal landings. In fact, Chesapeake Bay fish make a major contribution to the fishery in the lower Hudson River and New York Bight. Spawning habitats in Virginia tributaries to Chesapeake Bay were documented by Tresselt (1950, 1952), Mansueti (1961b), Rinaldo (1971), McGovern and Olney (1988, 1996), Grant and Olney (1991), Olney et al. (1991), and Bilkovic et al. (2002).

The only direct observations of striped bass eggs and larvae in major Virginia rivers through 1991 were made by Tresselt (1952), Rinaldo (1971), McGovern and Olney (1988), and Grant and Olney (1991).
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Old 10-06-2011, 08:16 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Quote:
Originally Posted by JakeF View Post
On the Pacific coast, striped bass were brought from the Atlantic and introduced in the San Francisco Bay estuary in 1879 and 1882, and have since spread north to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and south to Baja California, Mexico. The species has also been widely stocked in inland reservoirs and coastal rivers in the United States and abroad (France, Portugal and Russia).

Is it true that all of the California stripers originate from a railroad cars full of bass? Have there been additional salt water stockings since 1882?
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Old 10-07-2011, 08:57 AM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

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Is it true that all of the California stripers originate from a railroad cars full of bass? Have there been additional salt water stockings since 1882?
There were originally no striped bass in California. They were introduced from the East Coast. The initial introduction took place in 1879, when 132 small bass were brought successfully to California by rail from the Navesink River in New Jersey and released near Martinez. Fish from this lot were caught within a year near Sausalito, Alameda, and Monterey, and others were caught occasionally at scattered places for several years afterwards. There was much concern by the Fish and Game Commission that such a small number of bass might fail to establish the species, so a second introduction of about 300 stripers was made in lower Suisun Bay in 1882.

In a few years, striped bass were being caught in California in large numbers. By 1889, a decade after the first lot of eastern fish had been released, bass were being sold in San Francisco markets. In another 10 years, the commercial net catch alone was averaging well over a million pounds a year. In 1935, however, all commercial fishing for striped bass was stopped in the belief that this would enhance the sport fishery.

I am not aware of any subsequent stockings of the pacific coast population.
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:05 AM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

This chart shows the most recent stock estimate of the Pacific Coast stock as of 2007. This is off the CA DFG website, and I have not yet found a more recent stock assessment. This estimate shows a fairly steady and sharp decline since 2004.
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Old 10-11-2011, 01:29 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Tresselt (1952) surveyed the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Chickahominy, James, and Rappahannock rivers in Virginia, to determine the location of striped bass spawning grounds. Eggs were collected in appreciable numbers only on the Mattaponi River. In the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Chickahominy rivers, the regions of greatest egg abundance coincided with the regions of largest commercial catch. These areas were located in the first 25 miles of freshwater, and usually had high turbidity during the spawning season. The largest numbers of eggs were located 16.7 miles above the mouth of the Pamunkey and 8.7 miles above the mouth of the Mattaponi. Only a few eggs were collected over a wide section of the James and Rappahannock rivers (Tresselt 1952).

Similarly, Mansueti (1961) depicted the following Virginia rivers as spawning habitat: James, Chickahominy, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Rappahannock, and Potomac. Surveys of spawning grounds on the Chickahominy and James rivers during 1950 were conducted late, but provided the first direct documentation of striped bass spawning in those systems. Additionally, Rinaldo (1971) surveyed the Pamunkey River, Virginia, during the 1966 spawning season, and determined that spawning occurred 5 to 29.8 miles above West Point. Olney et al. (1991) documented striped bass egg mortality, production, and female biomass in Virginia rivers from 1980 to 1989. Sampling was conducted in the James, Pamunkey, Mattoponi, and Rappahannock rivers during April and May. In the Pamunkey River, eggs were collected from river miles 38.5 to 44.7 & 36 to 41 in April 1987.

The Pamunkey River was also sampled during 1980, 1983 to 1985, 1988, and 1989, presumably within reach 28.3 to 54.7 rmiles (Olney et al. 1991). Kernehan et al. (1981) suggested that previous, inadequate sampling underestimated the importance of the Upper Chesapeake Bay as striped bass spawning grounds. Phillips (1990) and Mansueti (1961) identified the following Upper Chesapeake Bay spawning habitats: Potomac River, Patuxent River, Susquehanna River, Northeast River, Elk River, Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal, Bohemia River, Sassafras River, Chester River, Choptank River, Blackwater River, Honga River/Fishing Bay, Nanticoke River, Wicomico River, Monokin River, and Pocomoke River.

The Susquehanna River was historically the area of greatest egg production, and spawning was recorded as far upriver as Northumberland, Pennsylvania, or beyond (Baird 1855; Dovel 1971). However, following construction of the Conowingo Dam near the mouth (river mile 10.0) of the Susquehanna River in 1928, the principal area of egg production appeared to be the main channel of Chesapeake Bay between Western Point and Chesapeake City (Dovel 1971). In the Potomac River, spawning historically occurred as far upriver as Great Falls (Baird 1855; Hildebrand and Schroeder 1928; Shannon and Smith 1968), but in 1978 was found only below Whitestone Point.
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:42 AM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Good stuff - thanks
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Old 10-20-2011, 02:33 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Nice recap, Jake. The Hudson River is the second largest striped bass production source, ranked just below the volumne of Chesapeake Bay's hundreds of tidal freswater environments.

The Hudson is the largest single river spawning area in the world. It has the most stable female striped bass spawning stock age 8+ of all the contributing spawning strains. Biologically the west coast striped bass strain are dna linked to the Hudson River tribe.

The ASFMC striped bass stock assessment (2011) board will be meeting in November, 2011 to rule on a reduction of harvest by recreational anglers by at least 50% in the Hudson, Chesapeake Bay and Albermarle Sound/Roanoke River spring spawning grounds begining 2012.

The Hudson River spring striped bass fishery is a privledge we have enjoyed forever. It is not a Right, and if an adjustment is necessary for the good of the species, so be it.
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Old 10-20-2011, 02:43 PM
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Default Re: Striped Bass - History & Habitat

Thanks for the addition RJC!

I will be at the ASMFC meeting in November and will report back to you all what decision is reached.
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