Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Mark E. Chittenden, Jr


Otoliths, scales, dorsal spines, and pectoral fin rays were compared to determine the best hardpart for ageing weakfish, Cynoscion regalis. Sectioned otoliths showed the clearest marks and were validated by the marginal increment method for ages 1-5. Traditionally-used scales were found to be less-precise and to underage older fish. Most weakfish from the Chesapeake Bay region were 200-600 mm TL and ages 1-4. Weakfish were not fully-recruited to commercial foodfish grades until age 2. Maximum observed age was 17 from a Delaware Bay fish collected in 1985. Current maximum observed ages were age 12 in Chesapeake Bay and age 11 in Delaware Bay. Fish older than age 6 were rare in both areas. Weakfish growth was well-described by the von Bertalanffy growth model (R&\sp2& = 0.98, N = 857). There was no evidence Delaware Bay weakfish reached a larger asymptotic length or size-at-age than Chesapeake Bay fish. However, maximum size and age from both areas has fluctuated in the past thirty years. Maximum size greatly increased from the late 1960's until roughly 1985, as did the numbers of large fish, apparently due to a series of strong year-classes, beginning in the late 1960's. Weakfish are multiple spawners with indeterminate fecundity and a spawning season from May to August, in the Chesapeake Bay region. Sex ratios were approximately 3:1, females to males, in 1990-1992. Mean length at first maturity for males and females was 164 and 170 mm TL, respectively. Most fish were mature by age one and all fish were mature by age 2. Spawning activity was not consistent throughout the spawning season or between 1991 and 1992. Batch fecundities ranged from 75,289-517,845 eggs/female and significantly increased with both TL and somatic weight. Spawning frequency was every 2-3 days in 1991 and every 12-13 days in 1992, leading to an average annual fecundity of 7,369,750 eggs/females in 1991 and 1,808,056 eggs/female in 1992. Patterns of spawning activity within and between years appeared closely associated with feeding success. Yield-per-recruit analysis indicated that, over a likely range of natural mortality rates, growth overfishing is currently occurring in the Chesapeake Bay region. Current t&\sb{lcub}\rm c{rcub}& is &\le& age 2, whereas maximum yield consistently occurred at t&\sb{lcub}\rm c{rcub}& &\ge& age 6.



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