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Maryland's Department of Natural Resources is estimating that the fewest number of rockfish have reproduced in more than 60 years — this coming after a banner year in 2011 in which Maryland's signature fish spawned in record numbers.
Biologists say one year of bad rockfish reproduction is nothing to be alarmed about, but if the trend goes on for several years, the species could be in trouble.
DNR officials say the usual number of rockfish, or striped bass as they are commonly known, swam into the Chesapeake Bay to spawn this past spring, but dry conditions and sharp temperature changes caused many of the eggs and larvae to perish.
Biologists say it's a delicate process, and that a sudden jump in temperature or even just one rainy week, could mean the difference between a record year, or an all-time low.
State biologists track spawning success by dragging 100-foot-long nets at dozens of locations around the Bay and its rivers throughout the summer.
If the species reproduces poorly for three years in a row, only then will the state consider adding fishing regulations to protect them.