Recruitment season, size, and age of young American eels (Anguilla rostrata) entering an estuary near Beaufort, North Carolina


Powles, Perce M., and Stanley M. Warlen
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Net catches from 1985–86 to 1994–95 at Pivers Island, North Carolina, indicated that glass-eel stage American eels (Anguilla rostrata) were recruited to the estuary from November to early May, with peak numbers in January, February, and March. There was no declining trend in recruitment over the years of sampling. Except for one year, there was no clear seasonal decrease in mean length. But shorter glass eels were older than longer glass eels, as judged by age within the glass eel growth zone of the otolith, suggesting that smaller fish took longer to arrive. The mean age of glass eels collected from the lower estuary and a freshwater site 9.5 km upriver differed by 8.4 d (36.2 vs. 44.6, respectively). Outer increments (30–35) of the otolith growth zone of glass eels from North Carolina were significantly wider than corresponding increments of otoliths from New Brunswick. Mean total ages of North Carolina, New Jersey, and New Brunswick elvers were 175.4, 201.2, and 209.3 d, corresponding to mean lengths of 55.9, 60.9, and 58.1 mm TL, respectively. The mean durations of glass-eel growth zones (44.6, 62.3, and 69.8) were in close agreement with those from previous studies, but total ages were not. This suggested that perhaps some finer (leptocephalus stage) increments were not detected by light microscopy, differences occurred in seasonal increment deposition, or absorption of the otolith material may have taken place during metamorphosis, rendering the aging of larvae inaccurate. Judging from the long recruitment period and seasonal uniformity in both mean age and length found in our study, the spawning period of American eels may be somewhat more protracted than previously considered.