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«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

SPATIAL ECOLOGY OF ADULT SPOTTED SEATROUT, CYNOSCION

NEBULOSUS, IN LOUISIANA COASTAL WATERS

A Dissertation

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the

Louisiana State University and

Agricultural and Mechanical College

in partial fulfillment of the

requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

in

The Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

by

Jody Lynn Callihan

B.S., University of Miami, 2002 M.S., University of Maryland, 2005 December 2011 © Copyright 2011 Jody Lynn Callihan All rights reserved ii

DEDICATION

I dedicate this scholarly work to my parents, Jim and Deb Callihan, and grandparents, John and Charlotte Miller, who sparked my interest and passion for the marine world through visits by us landlubbers to the Virginia coast to go flounder fishing every summer. Through these childhood experiences my interests in the marine environment grew, and most importantly, so did my curiosity in what lies beneath those deep blue waters which undoubtedly hold many important discoveries yet to be made.

iii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

First and foremost, I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Jim Cowan. He provided all the resources necessary to conduct a cutting edge telemetry study. He also allowed me great freedom and flexibility in designing my study. Through his supervision, I have vastly improved my critical thinking and independent research skills. I am also grateful to Jim for allowing me to complete my dissertation from afar. Furthermore, discussions and correspondence with Jim were instrumental in helping secure my next research endeavor. I also thank my committee members, Drs. Mark Benfield, Jaye Cable, and James Geaghan, for their valuable input and advice on my dissertation research.

I would like to thank the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, particularly the Marine Fisheries staff at the Lake Charles office, for their extensive field support during the Calcasieu Lake telemetry study. Special thanks go to Mike Harbison for his dedication to this project. I spent over 120 days on the water during the course of this study, and on most of those days, Mike was at the helm of our trusty downloading and fish tagging vessels. Mike was a great field partner, hard worker, and conversationist as we often exchanged fishing and hunting stories and discussed sports or fisheries management. We also had several interesting run-ins with the Gulf’s famous pop-up thunderstorms, but Mike always brought us to safety in these events.

Mike also took many of the photos used in this study and helped design the second generation channel marker receiver mounts. I also thank the following members of the LDWF Lake Charles crew for their field assistance: Rodney Benson, Peyton Cagle, Mandy Courville, Jerry Ferguson, Brad Launey, Amanda Shahan, and Joey Verret.

I extend gratitude to the anglers who volunteered their time to catch the fish used in the Calcasieu Lake telemetry study. Special thanks go to Will Drost, who was pivotal in helping me

–  –  –

Drost, Mitch Drost, Cory Duhon, John Dunham, Scott Duplchein, Ellis Dupree, David Fontenot, Moby Goodwin (and sons), Seth Guidry, Ralph Hays, David Hebert, Tom Henning, Bill Hull, Stephen Lucchesi, George Paret, Eric Schram, Gus Schram, Don Scott, Allen Singletary, John Suttle, Tom Turpin, Ross Turpin, Rusty Vincent, Jeremy Waltrip, and Bryan Williams. Also, the following guides from Hackberry Rod & Gun provided study fish: Kevin Augustine, Jason Broussard, Buddy Oakes, and Guy Stansel. I also thank Jerry George, Kevin Savoie, and Mandy Tumlin for their assistance aboard the R/V Ladyfish during tagging events. I believe this study was an excellent example of the co-management concept, whereby collaborative efforts and exchange of ideas among university scientists, management agencies, and fisheries stakeholders can benefit the management of our natural resources.

I am also appreciative of the United States Coast Guard, Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources for granting me permission to mount receivers onto their existing infrastructure. Thanks also go to Mark Miller who fabricated channel marker mounts; to Marty Heaney and Jeff Enright of Bio-West, who dove and installed those mounts. I would also like to thank Rusty Vincent of the Century Group for donating a truckload of concrete bucket anchors that were used in buoyed receiver riggings. I also thank David Walters of the United States Geological Survey for providing hourly water quality data from the USGS gages in Calcasieu Lake and the Southern Regional Climate Center at LSU for providing meteorological data from the Lake Charles airport.

I would like to thank Dr. Ed Chesney for introducing me to the world of fish husbandry and helping set up my holding experiment at LUMCON. I also thank Jeremy Miller for assisting with daily experimental maintenance and also teaching me how to efficiently use a cast net.

–  –  –

to provide prey for my study fish.

I thank the following members of the Cowan lab (past and present) who assisted with my LUMCON study and also helped pull my receiver array with a major hurricane looming in the Gulf: Dr. Kevin Boswell, Andy Fischer, Steve Garner, Dr. Joris van der Ham, Dr. Kim de Mutsert, Kirsten Simonsen, Courtney Nosach, and Michelle Zapp. I also thank Dr. Kevin Boswell for introducing me to the powerful tools of acoustic imaging (DIDSON) and complex data visualization (Eon Fusion). The second chapter of this dissertation benefited greatly through discussions with Dr. Dale Webber of VEMCO, thank you. I would also like to thank Drs. Bill Hopkins and Eric Hallerman for securing office space for me at Virginia Tech, where I completed this dissertation.





Last, but not least, I would to thank those loved ones in my life for their support during this long road. Without their perpetual encouragement, this work would not have been possible.

To my fiancée Christine Bergeron, I love you and am looking forward to our big day in September and spending the rest of our lives together. Also, thank you for editing and helping streamline this lengthy prose. To my parents, Jim and Deb Callihan, and grandparents, John and Charlotte Miller, thank you for always being there for me in good times and bad.

This work was funded by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries with Sportfish Restoration dollars provided through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service federal assistance program.

–  –  –

DEDICATION……………………………………………………………………………………iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………………………………………iv ABSTRACT…………………………………………………………………………………...…ix GENERAL INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………1 References…………………………………………………………………………………5

CHAPTER 1: SURVIVAL AND TAG RETENTION IN SPOTTED SEATROUT

EQUIPPED WITH ACOUSTIC TRANSMITTERS AND DART TAGS………………………..9 Introduction………………………………………………………………………………..9 Methods…………………………………………………………………………………..12 Results……………………………………………………………………………………23 Discussion……………………………………………………………………………......29 References………………………………………………………………………………..35

CHAPTER 2: THE PERFORMANCE OF ACOUSTIC TELEMETRY RECEIVERS

IN A SHALLOW, TURBID ESTUARY………………………………………………………...41 Introduction……………………………………………………………………………....41 Methods…………………………………………………………………………………..44 Results……………………………………………………………………………………79 Discussion………………………………………………………………………………119 References………………………………………………………………………………129

CHAPTER 3: STOCK STRUCTURE OF SPOTTED SEATROUT IN LOUISIANA

INFERRED FROM CONVENTIONAL TAGGING AND ACOUSTIC

TELEMETRY DATA…………………………………………………………………………..134 Introduction……………………………………………………………………………..134 Methods…………………………………………………………………………………137 Results…………………………………………………………………………………..152 Discussion………………………………………………………………………………167 References………………………………………………………………………………183

CHAPTER 4: EFFECTS OF METEOROLOGICAL EVENTS ON THE DISTRIBUTION

OF SPOTTED SEATROUT IN A LOUISIANA ESTUARY………………………………….191 Introduction……………………………………………………………………………..191 Methods…………………………………………………………………………………193 Results…………………………………………………………………………………..201 Discussion………………………………………………………………………………239 References………………………………………………………………………………247 vii

CHAPTER 5: HABITAT USE OF ADULT SPOTTED SEATROUT IN CALCASIEU

LAKE, LOUISIANA…………………………………………………………………………...253 Introduction……………………………………………………………………………..253 Methods…………………………………………………………………………………255 Results…………………………………………………………………………………..269 Discussion………………………………………………………………………………276 References………………………………………………………………………………284 GENERAL SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS……………………………………………..290 VITA……………………………………………………………………………………………296

–  –  –

Spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, are common in estuaries and coastal waters of the south Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and are of considerable recreational and economic importance. Still, the spatial ecology of this species is under-studied and poorly resolved, especially in Louisiana waters. To address this important knowledge gap, I examined the movements, distribution, and habitat use of adult spotted seatrout in coastal Louisiana primarily using high-resolution acoustic telemetry and secondarily, conventional tagging (mark-recapture) data. At the largest spatial scale investigated, I found that adults exhibited a high degree of estuarine fidelity and rarely undertook large-scale movements in excess of 50 km. At smaller (intra-estuarine) spatial scales, abiotic factors had a strong effect on fish distribution.

Specifically, fish primarily utilized deeper channel habitats during severe weather events (cold storms and tropical fronts) and females avoided olighaline waters (0.5-5 psu). Adult spotted seatrout also showed clear habitat preferences, whereby oyster reefs and mud-bottom habitats of the estuary proper were used to a greater extent than channel and marsh regions. Seasonal and size trends in habitat use were also evident, as larger fish ( 400 mm TL) showed a high affinity for structured (reef) habitats and across size classes, artificial reefs were utilized most during spring and summer. My results have direct bearing on the assessment and management of this important species and support the current initiative of an ecosystems-approach to management by informing spatial management options. Finally, the results of my methods validation work on the effects of tagging on spotted seatrout and performance dynamics of telemetry equipment have important implications for future studies. Given the high transmitter retention and survival of telemetered spotted seatrout in my holding experiments, biotelemetry should be a feasible approach for future studies on the movement and behavior of this species. Still, in designing

–  –  –

Spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, are an extremely important recreational species and the most sought after coastal sportfish in the nation. In eight of the past ten years (2000more spotted seatrout were caught than any other species by recreational anglers in US coastal waters, with the majority of the catch (~85% or 25-35 million fish) coming from state waters (estuaries) along the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) (personal communication from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics Division, May 2010). Most of the catch in the GOM is taken in Louisiana (50-60% annually), where a rich fishing heritage exists for this species (Baltz et al. 2003). Fishing for spotted seatrout generates a wealth of economic activity.

In Louisiana alone, recreational saltwater fishing activities, a large part of which focus on spotted seatrout, generated a total economic impact of $757 million in 2006 and supported approximately 7,800 jobs in the state (Southwick Associates 2008). Thus, ensuring healthy populations of spotted seatrout should have positive cultural, social, and economic benefits for the state of Louisiana.



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