Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1410–1421 | Cite as

Moving Forward in a Reverse Estuary: Habitat Use and Movement Patterns of Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) Under Distinct Hydrological Regimes

  • Matthew J. Ajemian
  • Kathryn S. Mendenhall
  • Jennifer Beseres Pollack
  • Michael S. Wetz
  • Gregory W. Stunz


Understanding the effects of freshwater inflow on estuarine fish habitat use is critical to the sustainable management of many coastal fisheries. The Baffin Bay Complex (BBC) of south Texas is typically a reverse estuary (i.e., salinity increases upstream) that has supported many recreational and commercial fisheries. In 2012, a large proportion of black drum (Pogonias cromis) landed by fishers were emaciated, leading to concerns about the health of this estuary. In response to this event and lacking data on black drum spatial dynamics, a 2-year acoustic telemetry study was implemented to monitor individual-based movement and seasonal distribution patterns. Coupled with simultaneous water quality monitoring, the relationship between environmental variables and fish movement was assessed under reverse and “classical” estuary conditions. Acoustic monitoring data suggested that the BBC represents an important habitat for black drum; individuals exhibited site fidelity to the system and were present for much of the year. However, under reverse estuary conditions, fish summertime distribution was constrained to the interior of the BBC, where food resources are limited (based on recent benthic sampling), with little evidence of movement across the system. Out of eight environmental variables used to model fish movement using multiple linear regression, the only significant variable was salinity, which exhibited a negative relationship with movement rate. These findings suggest that prolonged periods of hypersalinity, which are detrimental to other euryhaline species due to increased osmoregulatory costs, reduce black drum distribution patterns and can limit the species’ access to benthic habitats supporting abundant prey resources.


Fisheries Estuarine systems Telemetry Movement Habitat use 



We are indebted to the following individuals from the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation for invaluable field support: J. Williams, M. Streich, C. Downey, Q. Hall, D. Norris, R. Brewton, and T. Topping. Our work would not have succeeded without the overwhelming support of S. Murray, an exemplary citizen-scientist from the region who led volunteer water sampling and created important relationships between scientists and the Baffin Bay community. We also thank Z. Olsen and F. Grubbs (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) for logistical support as well as the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Funding Information

The fisheries component of this work was supported by grants from the Coastal Bend and Bays Estuaries Program (Contract #1421 and #1523), Texas Sea Grant (Award # NA14OAR4170102), and the Harvey Weil Sportsman Conservation Program. The water quality component of this work was supported in part by an Institutional Grant (Award #NA14OAR4170102) to the Texas Sea Grant College Program from the National Sea Grant Office, by a Texas Coastal Management Program Grant approved by the Texas Land Commissioner pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration award no. NA14NOS4190139, by contributions from the Celanese Corporation, Kleberg County, Coastal Conservation Association, Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association, and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico StudiesTexas A&M University-Corpus ChristiCorpus ChristiUSA
  2. 2.Harbor Branch Oceanographic InstituteFlorida Atlantic UniversityFort PierceUSA
  3. 3.Department of Life SciencesTexas A&M University-Corpus ChristiCorpus ChristiUSA

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