Assessing a Northern Expansion of Common Snook into Cedar Key

By Caleb Purtlebaugh

Data collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWC/FWRI) Fisheries Independent Monitoring (FIM) program indicate that there has been an exponential increase in the abundance of Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) in Cedar Key, Florida. The FIM program in Cedar Key has been collecting fisheries data using a 183-m haul seine for nearly a 20 year period.

Data from monthly FWRI Fisheries Indepent Monitoring 183-m seines (n=192 each year) indicate snook density has increased exponentially over the past 18 years in Cedar Key, FL

In ten years of sampling from 1997 through 2006 only a single Common Snook had been collected during routine sampling.  From 2007 through the present, over 200 Common Snook, mostly adult-sized individuals, have been captured.

 

This increase in adult-sized Common Snook raised the possibility that reproduction might be occurring in this estuary. In October, a directed sampling trip into back water habitats of Cedar Key used the FIM program’s standard 21.3-m seine to collect 25 juvenile Common Snook.

A juvenile Common Snook captured during a directed sampling trip in back water habitats of Cedar Key

This provided evidence that Common Snook were successfully reproducing in an area further north on the Gulf Coast of Florida than had been previously reported.  The increase in Common Snook abundance may be attributed to recent increases in ocean and ambient air temperature.

 

To better understand the distribution and movement of Common Snook in Cedar Key, a collaborative project between FWC’s FIM program and the University of Florida’s Nature Coast Biological Station has been initiated. This past fall a pilot project deployed a telemetry array and acoustically tagged Common Snook to investigate their movement patterns.

Suturing a Common Snook after implanting an acoustic tag.

In particular, scientists are interested in learning about the winter habitats of Common Snook in this northern estuary.  The collaborative partners in this telemetry study are submitting proposals to continue and expand upon this project.