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Movement patterns of adult red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus, in shallow Florida lagoons as inferred through autonomous acoustic telemetry

Abstract

Acoustic telemetry was employed to resolve seasonal and daily movement patterns of adult red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) in the northern Indian River Lagoon system, Florida. From May 2006 to September 2008, 44 tagged fish were tracked within an array of 34 autonomous receivers with individuals detected for up to 654 days. Most red drum exhibited strong site fidelity from winter through early summer with movement rates increasing significantly during fall spawning months. While some fish migrated to the nearest ocean inlet at this time, the majority remained within the lagoon year-round suggesting that true estuarine reproduction, a behavior uncommon or poorly documented elsewhere is the dominant life history strategy locally. Diel movement patterns were also pronounced and indicated changing depth preferences over a 24 h period. Despite a harvest prohibition on large red drum, long-term estuarine residency coupled with high angling pressure (41% recapture rate in 50 months) suggest that post-release angling mortality and sub-lethal effects to growth and reproduction may strongly influence the strength of adult size classes.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to express our gratitude to Carla Garreau, Shanon Gann, Karen Holloway-Adkins, and Mark Provancha (Innovative Health Applications), D. Scott Taylor (Brevard County), and Captain Jim Ross for their aid in fish collections and equipment maintenance. We thank Billy Payne (Matrix Corporation) and especially Dan Hunt (Innovative Health Applications) for invaluable assistance with data management, and Carlton Hall (Innovative Health Applications), George Burgess (University of Florida), and the staff of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore for logistical support. We also thank Josh Taylor and John Hadden (Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) for help with angler tag return data. Lauren Hall at St. John’s River Water Management District graciously provided valuable water quality data. Funding for this research was provided through the NASA Life Sciences Service Contract as well as the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund (UF-07-04) and Florida Non-Game Wildlife Grant (NG06-019) awarded to the University of Florida.

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Correspondence to Eric A. Reyier.

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Reyier, E.A., Lowers, R.H., Scheidt, D.M. et al. Movement patterns of adult red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus, in shallow Florida lagoons as inferred through autonomous acoustic telemetry. Environ Biol Fish 90, 343–360 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-010-9745-3

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Keywords

  • Sciaenidae
  • Red drum
  • Estuarine reproduction
  • Site fidelity
  • Diel movement
  • Acoustic telemetry