Variation in movement patterns of red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) inferred from conventional tagging and ultrasonic telemetry


Bacheler, Nathan M., Lee M. Paramore, Summer M. Burdick, Jeffrey A. Buckel, and Joseph E. Hightower
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We used 25 years of conventional tagging data (n=6173 recoveries) and 3 years of ultrasonic telemetry data (n=105 transmitters deployed) to examine movement rates and directional preferences of four age classes of red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) in estuarine and coastal waters of North Carolina. Movement rates of conventionally tagged red drum were dependent on the age, region, and season of tagging. Age-1 and age-2 red drum tagged along the coast generally moved along the coast, whereas fish tagged in oligohaline waters far from the coast were primarily recovered in coastal regions in fall months. Adult (age-4+) red drum moved from overwintering grounds on the continental shelf through inlets into Pamlico Sound in spring and summer months and departed in fall. Few tagged red drum were recovered in adjacent states (0.6% of all recoveries); however, some adult red drum migrated seasonally from overwintering grounds in coastal North Carolina northward to Virginia in spring, returning in fall. Age-2 transmitter-tracked red drum displayed seasonal emigration from a small tributary, but upstream and downstream movements within the tributary were correlated with fluctuating salinity regimes and not season. Large-scale conventional tagging and ultrasonic telemetry programs can provide valuable insights into the complex movement patterns of estuarine fish.