Acoustic Tagging of Speckled Trout

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      Patrick McGrath and an acoustically tagged speckled trout from the Lynnhaven River.  
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      A volunteer fisherman holding an acoustically tagged speckled trout from the Corrotoman River.  
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    Vemco Tags   The two different sized acoustic tags used in this project. One acoustic tag was placed internally into each speckled trout caught for this project.  
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    Dart Tag   The dart tag placed near the dorsal fin of each acoustically tagged speckled trout. Instructions on the tag ask fishermen to release the fish alive or if dead fish, to save the entire fish. In both cases, we would appreciate a phone call telling us where the specific numbered fish was caught. This particular tag (#40) was inserted into a 16” speckled trout from the Lynnhaven River.  
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The Project:

Speckled trout (Cynoscion nebulosus) is the focus of an important recreational fishery in the southeastern United States. Speckled trout in Virginia has been cited as both a transitional population and as a mostly non-migratory population. The degree of residency is important to understand for the effective management of the species. Management of speckled trout has also been marred by cold-stun events which can kill a significant portion of the stock and have detrimental localized effects. Virginia is the northern extent of speckled trout populations and is the most likely portion of its range to experience cold-stun events. Virginia water temperatures can reach 0 °C during some winters, well below lethal temperatures for speckled trout. The primary objective of this was to use acoustic telemetry to provide managers and recreational fishermen with information regarding speckled trout movements and their reaction to declining water temperatures.

The goals of this study were to analyze:

  1. Seasonal movements 
  2. Movements within and between river systems
  3. Relationship between water temperature and fish locations
  4. Cold mortality events (In the past, speckled trout have experienced mass die-offs when water temperatures are below 5 degrees Celsius for several days in a row)


Funding for this project was provided by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission Marine Recreational Fishing Advisory Board with additional support from an anonymous donor. Thank you to everyone who have contributed to this project with advice and/or river access.

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