Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Bush River Juvenile Fish Monitoring Program

Volunteers seining in the Bush River. Photo credit: C. SnowCBNERR-MD is tracking juvenile fish populations in the tidal freshwaters of the Bush River just outside of Otter Point Creek through a volunteer-based monitoring program. The program is a collaborative effort between CBNERR-MD, the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center, located in Harford County, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Service. This monitoring effort aims to assess the overall health of the fish community as well as increase awareness about this important resource to local citizens.

The program began in 2001 and monitors juvenile fish populations using a 100 foot seine net and a 25 foot trawl net. The samplings occur two times a month from July to September at seven different locations on the Bush River. The seven sites consist of four seine sites located on the shoreline and three trawl sites located off-shore of the seine sites. Once caught, fish are sorted, identified and counted, and then returned to the water. Measurements of body length are taken of commercially important species like white and yellow perch and rockfish. At each sampling site, surface and bottom water quality measurements are also taken using a hand-held YSI unit. Water quality measurements include salinity, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen and conductivity. Total water depth and secchi depths are also recorded.

The main objectives of this fish monitoring program are to:

  1. Assess the overall health of the fish community within the Otter Point Creek tidal freshwater system and nearby Bush River by collecting baseline data on fish species.
  2. Track trends in populations, species composition, and age and abundance of commercially important species such as white and yellow perch and rockfish.
  3. Promote awareness to the local community about the status and importance of this natural resource.
  4. Promote the use of this long-term monitoring data for education and stewardship purposes.

Data from previous years show that juvenile white perch are the most commonly caught fish from both the seine and trawl methods. It has also been noted that the total abundance of yellow perch is declining in the Bush River.

How to get involved:

Volunteers sorting fish after seining. Photo credit: C. SnowIf you are interested in helping with our fish monitoring program, please contact CBNERR-MD Stewardship Coordinator, Chris Snow ( or CBNERR-MD Research Assistant, Lindsay Carroll ( No experience is required. A training session is held in June of each sampling year to help teach fish identification skills. Sampling involves being on a boat as well as in the water, counting and sorting fish, the use of water quality monitoring equipment and note taking. In return, you would have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Bush River as well as gain hands on experience conducting scientific field research.

Available Information:

Information collected through this effort includes: species presence and abundance, body size of commercially important species, and measurements of water quality. If you are interested in this data please contact Chris Snow (


Sampling marsh vegetation at Jug Bay (Credit: L. Carroll)

Our Science

Explore and learn about the interesting research and long-term monitoring projects we are conducting at Otter Point Creek (Bush River), Jug Bay (Patuxent River), and Monie Bay (eastern shore). Our projects range from water quality monitoring to marsh plants to monitoring secretive marsh birds and fish.​​​​​


Links to Our Data

Our Data

We invite you to use our data to support research, modeling, management, and/or education goals. Our data could serve as baseline information to start a new research project, to look for interesting trends, to support modeling efforts, or to complement a project already in progress. We hope our data can help you to make a difference!