We evaluated the performance of small (12.5 mm long) passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags and custom detection antennas for obtaining fine-scale movement and demographic data of mummichog Fundulus heteroclitus in a salt marsh creek. Apparent survival and detection probability were estimated using a Cormack Jolly Seber (CJS) model fitted to detection data collected by an array of 3 vertical antennas from November 2010 to March 2011 and by a single horizontal antenna from April to August 2011. Movement of mummichogs was monitored during the period when the array of vertical antennas was used. Antenna performance was examined in situ using tags placed in wooden dowels (drones) and in live mummichogs. Of the 44 tagged fish, 42 were resighted over the 9 mo monitoring period. The in situ detection probabilities of the drone and live mummichogs were high (~80-100%) when the ambient water depth was less than ~0.8 m. Upstream and downstream movement of mummichogs was related to hourly water depth and direction of tidal current in a way that maximized time periods over which mummichogs utilized the intertidal vegetated marsh. Apparent survival was lower during periods of colder water temperatures in December 2010 and early January 2011 (median estimate of daily apparent survival = 0.979) than during other periods of the study (median estimate of daily apparent survival = 0.992). During late fall and winter, temperature had a positive effect on the CJS detection probability of a tagged mummichog, likely due to greater fish activity over warmer periods. During the spring and summer, this pattern reversed possibly due to mummichogs having reduced activity during the hottest periods. This study demonstrates the utility of PIT tags and continuously operating autonomous detection systems for tracking fish at fine temporal scales, and improving estimates of demographic parameters in salt marsh creeks that are difficult or impractical to sample with active fishing gear.
Additional publication details
Estimating movement and survival rates of a small saltwater fish using autonomous antenna receiver arrays and passive integrated transponder tags