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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

(1997) 44,703-711

Nocturnal Fish Use of New Jersey Marsh Creek andAdjacent Bay Shoal Habitats

R. A. Rountree' and K. W. Able

Marine Field Station, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, 800 Great Bay Boulevard,

Tuckerton, NJ 08087, U.S.A.

Night-time sampling with gill nets in the Little Egg Harbor estuary revealed a component of the estuarine fish fauna, hitherto poorly documented, which is comprised of relatively large size classes of juvenile and adult life history stages.  The fishes Mustelus canes, Pomatomus saltatrix, Paralichthys dentatus, Brevoortia tyrannus, Ponotus evolans and Alosa mediocris were the most abundant fishes captured.  These observations suggest that Mid-Atlantic Bight estuaries are important nurseries for juvenile stages beyond the first year, as well as for the young of the year (YOY).  Although many other studies emphasize the importance of estuaries as nurseries for YOY stages, the importance of estuaries to later juvenile life stages has been largely overlooked. This component of estuarine fish fauna has been poorly represented in previous North American studies because of probable gear avoidance, and because most studies are conducted primarily during the day.  The authors hypothesize that these later juvenile stages are likely to be important estuarine faunal components in other geographic regions, as well as in the Mid-Atlantic Bight.  A descriptive comparison of catches between ebb and flood tide stages, and between bay shoal and tidal marsh creek habitats, suggests that later juvenile and adult stages of several species make tidal migrations into shallow estuarine habitats, such as shoals and marsh creeks, during the night hours.


faunal survey; estuarine habitat; juvenile nursery; saltmarsh creek; tidal migrations; gill net; nocturnal; fish; Mid-Atlantic Bight

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