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Characteristics of spawning ground fidelity by a diadromous fish: a multi-year perspective

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Spawning site fidelity has long been documented for anadromous salmonids, and more recently in estuarine and marine fish. The level of fidelity has implications for population dynamics, conservation, and management. This study extended a previous examination of spawning ground fidelity for common snook, Centropomus undecimalis. We used seines to sample 28 km of Gulf of Mexico beaches, spawning grounds for snook, during spawning season (May through September) from 2007 through 2010. Of 3,304 snook tagged, 171 unique fish were recaptured a total of 186 times and, of those, 166 fish (97.08%) (181 recaptures = 97.31%) were recaptured on the same island where they were tagged. One hundred seven of the recaptures occurred in the same year they were tagged, and 79 occurred one or more years after they were tagged, indicating fidelity was expressed within and across years. Distance between tag and recapture locations within and among years demonstrated fidelity at a spatial scale much smaller than barrier island (mean distance between tag and recapture =1.59 ± 0.12 km; island lengths 6.8, 8.9 and 12.4 km). Furthermore, mapping of capture locations revealed clumped distribution of snook on spawning grounds, further suggesting snook propensity for specific locations. Fish size had no effect on fidelity. We conclude that common snook show a high level of spawning site fidelity in southwest Florida, which may result in spawning group segregation, may influence the response of snook to disturbances, and may have implications for adult-to-nursery ontogenetic connections.

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This research was funded by grants from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (grant no. 06125 to R. Pierce), Mote Scientific Foundation (to AJA), and National Science Foundation REU grants to J. Gelsleichter and B. Kirkpatrik. A special acknowledgement to R. Duffey for preparing Fig. 1. We thank S. Anderson, T. Barker, N. Barkowski, R. Boucek, A. Chicone, M. Hammond, J. King, M. McGraw, J. Millar, C. Murray, C. Samoray, S. Yess, T. Yess, and J. Zehnder for field assistance, and D. R. Gulnac and D. K. Gulnac for facilities. Tagging was conducted according to standards set by the Mote Marine Laboratory Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC permit no. 0704aa1). We are grateful for comments from two anonymous reviewers that improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Aaron J. Adams.

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Adams, A.J., Hill, J.E. & Samoray, C. Characteristics of spawning ground fidelity by a diadromous fish: a multi-year perspective. Environ Biol Fish 92, 403–411 (2011).

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