Keith Lockwood, Fisheries Biologist
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Posted on February 16, 2012 | Permalink
Region: Chesapeake Bay
The bay anchovy is a tiny baitfish in the Chesapeake that has a big responsibility when it comes to providing forage for several species of game fish that we hold dear in Maryland. When it comes to food for striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay most people focus on menhaden but the bay anchovy is the most abundant fish in the Chesapeake Bay and it also is spread through the coastal bays up and down the east coast. Often they are referred to as glass minnows and can often be seen in the bay and tidal rivers in large schools near the surface. They have a prominent stripe on their side, a large mouth, no scales on their belly and are somewhat translucent. They use their gill rakers to strain the water for zooplankton, small invertebrates such as copepods. They tend to spawn at night around mid-summer, grow rapidly reaching maturity in a few months and only live about 2-years if not eaten first by a hungry striped bass, Spanish mackerel or bluefish. They do not migrate south in the winter but choose to hold deep in the Chesapeake Bay and can tolerate salinities from 35p.p.t. (sea water) to 1p.p.t. (brackish). Good populations of bay anchovies are important in the bay because they are such a valuable bait fish for juvenile striped bass and with a bumper crop of 6” to 12” striped bass this year they will be critical to the health of 2011 year class. The graph below shows a steady decline in the number of bay anchovies encountered in the striped bass juvenile index seining studies over the years; let’s all keep our fingers crossed there will be enough food on the table for our striped bass this summer.