Oceanic migration rates of Upper Chesapeake Bay striped bass (Morone saxatilis), determined by otolith microchemical analysis


Secor, David H., and Philip M. Piccoli
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Oceanic incidence and spawning frequency of Chesapeake Bay striped bass (Morone saxatilis) were estimated by using microchemical analysis of strontium in otoliths. Otoliths from 40 males and 82 females sampled from Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay were analyzed for seasonal and age-specific patterns in strontium and calcium levels. The proportion of oceanic females increased from 50% to 75% between ages seven to 13; the proportion of oceanic males increased from 20% to ~50% between ages four to 13. Contrary to an earlier model of Chesapeake Bay striped bass migration, results indicated that a substantial number of males undertook oceanic migrations. Further, we observed no mass emigration of females from three to four years of age from the Chesapeake Bay. Seasonal patterns of estuarine habitat use were consistent with annual spawning runs by striped bass of mature age classes, but with noteworthy exceptions for newly mature females. Evidence of an early oceanic presence indicated that Chesapeake Bay yearlings move into coastal regions—a pattern observed also for Hudson River striped bass. Otolith microchemical analyses revealed two types of behaviors (estuarine and oceanic) that confirm migratory behaviors recently determined for other populations of striped bass and diadromous species (e.g., American eels [Anguilla rostrata] American shad [Alosa sapidissima] and white perch [Morone Americana]).