We investigated the habitat of juvenile groundfishes in relation to depth, water temperature, and salinity in Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Stations ranging in depth from 10 to 70 m and with sand or mud-sand substrates were sampled with a small-meshed beam trawl in August-September of 1994 to 1999. A total of 8,201 fishes were captured, comprising at least 52 species. Most fishes (91%) had a total length < 150 mm and were in their juvenile stage. Overall, the most abundant fishes were the rock soles Lepidopsetta spp. and Pacific cod Gadus macrocephalus. Other common species (>5% of the total catch) were flathead sole Hippoglossoides elassodon, slim sculpin Radulinus asprellus, Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis, and arrowtooth flounder Atheresthes stomias. Depth accounted for most of the spatial variability in juvenile groundfish abundance, and neither temperature nor salinity was correlated with fish abundance. Juvenile groundfishes concentrated in either shallow (less than or equal to 20 m) or deep (50-70 m) water, with co-occurrence of some species between 30-40 m. Shallow fishes were the rock soles, Pacific halibut, and great sculpin Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus. Deep species were flathead sole, slim sculpin, spinycheek starsnout Bathyagonus infraspinatus, rex sole Glyptocephalus zachirus, tadpole sculpin Psychrolutes paradoxus, and whitebarred prickleback Poroclinus rothrocki. This 6-year study provides baseline data on relative abundance and distribution of juvenile groundfishes in Kachemak Bay and may provide a useful tool for predicting the presence of species in similar habitats in other areas of Alaska.
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Juvenile groundfish habitat in Kachemak Bay, Alaska, during late summer