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Field Studies on Soniferous Fishes

This page describes ongoing pilot field studies of soniferous fishes in various localities, including New Jersey, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Narragansett Sound, RI, and Florida (see also, links under Stellwagen Bank study). I also include some information on my efforts to record Atlantic cod and haddock sounds from brood stocks maintained by the NMFS/NEFSC Narragansett Laboratory.

I. Soniferous fishes of Cape Cod.

This project is currently underway. One of the early findings is that striped cusk-eels, Ophidion marginatum, are very abundant in Cape Cod estuaries and coastal waters (see cusk-eel page). As part of this project, I have been monitoring fish sounds in a variety of habitats around Cape Cod from June 2001 and continuing through the fall. I will be adding many new clips from this study in the coming months.

A. This project was funded by a development grants from The Sounds Conservancy and the Woods Hole Sea Grant Program. A copy of the mini-grant proposal can be viewed by clicking here: Proposal.

B. The following are some recordings I made during the late summer and fall 2000 during early sampling trials.

1). I recorded striped searobin, Prionotus evolans, around the Cotuit town docks on several different occasions.

 (Illustration courtesy of NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC)

On 11 September I caught an approximately 15-cm individual while fishing from the docks. I placed it in a fish basket near the hydrophone and recorded its sounds while repeatedly raising and lowering the basket to establish proof of the caller's identity. Click here for a short sound clip.

Short video clip from the same location on September 30, 2000. Click on thumbnail.

 

2). (Click on thumbnail to download clip). Video of scup, Stenotomus chrysops, black sea bass, Centropristis striata, and a large tautog, Tautoga onitis, taken shortly after the above searobin clip on September 30, 2000. In the first few seconds you will see a scup pulling bait from a chum can. You can also hear it tear the bait out and chew on it. The load splash you hear is my fishing line hitting the water (You can easily hear fishing lines hit the water from several hundred feet away. Even in very noisy conditions.) Next you will see two small black sea bass feeding on scrapes left by the scup. One of the black sea bass leaves while one stays behind trying to get more food from the can (he is on the bottom near the left end of the chum can). The second sea bass darts away rapidly when disturbed by an unknown sound. Did you spot the tautog yet? Believe it or not, a large tautog is in the field of view during the entire clip! He is siting on the left side of the screen facing the chum can. His head is larger than the height of the can (4-5 inches). You can see him move away in response to the unknown sound at the same time as the black sea bass. I had seen this clip six or seven times before I noticed it, even then I thought it was a fish "ghost". I'm using a camera equipped with IR lights so the camera does not disturb the fish. Under these conditions, the tautog is extremely well camouflaged!

 C. Field results in 2001

1). Poster presented 14 August 2001 at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Cape Cod describing sounds of some of the vocal fishes in the area.

2). Spontaneous sounds of the striped searobin, Prionotus evolans from Cotuit docks.

3). Cusk-eel calls recorded from Provincetown harbor in August. See cusk-eel page.

 Aquarium photo of a small striped cusk-eel, Ophidion marginatum, collected at the Cotuit town dock following a recording session.

II. Soniferous fishes of Great Bay, New Jersey

A. Here are a few examples of an unidentified fish call that I have heard frequently in several estuarine habitat types in New Jersey during trial recordings in the late summer and fall of 2000.

First example. Recorded from Great Bay New Jersey on August 5, 2000 from small boat in 1.5.

Second example. Two more examples of the same call recorded a short time later at the same location.

Third example. Similar calls were heard frequently from Little Sheepshead Cr. On September 6, 2000. Fishers were fishing for weakfish using strong floodlights powered by portable generators. They were catching weakfish, bluefish and hickory shad. The unidentified sounds were more frequent when hickory shad were being caught. I had a fisherman hold a hooked fish near the hydrophone for a few moments and recorded several of the croaks, of which this is one example. However, it could just be coincidence that I recorded these sounds at that time, as I had been hearing them periodically all night (though not for several minutes before and after this incident).

B. Two other types of unidentified sounds that may be fish calls. These were recorded during the late afternoon from Little Sheepshead Creek Bridge in Tuckerton, NJ on 28 September 2000.

1). Load thumps. Unknown?.

2). Chicken cackling. Unknown???

C. I recorded some weakfish, Cynoscion regalis, sounds at night on the docks at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station in Tuckerton, NJ on September 28, 2000. Here is a clip of a train of thumps made by a weakfish as it attacked a school of silversides, Menidia menidia, aggregated under the dock lights. If you listen carefully you can here me say "Whoa!" when I heard the sound and saw the fish flash. The fish I saw was about 3-5 lbs., but I can't be certain it was not an age-1 bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix, since they were also periodically feeding on the silversides. 

  (Illustration courtesy of NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC)

III. Florida Keys

A. Recordings made from docks at hotel on Conch Key, including some nice video/audio of rainbow parrotfish feeding. (Not yet available)

B. Recordings of the gulf toadfish, Opsanus beta, recorded as above. Below is an illustration of the nearly identical northern Oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau (see the archive section for recordings of O. tau, I will add in my own at a later date.).

   (Illustration courtesy of NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC)

 

 

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This page was last modified on July 20, 2001

Copyright © 1999 by Rodney Rountree. All rights reserved

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