The U.S. Geological Survey conducted a survey of juvenile fisheries resources, in cooperation with the St. Johns River Water Management District and Volusia County, to establish baseline data on spatial and temporal distribution patterns of estuarine fish. The survey was conducted from November 2001 to March 2005 and the baseline data established for the survey in the Northern Coastal Basins were collected from January 2002 to December 2004. The study area included the bar-built estuaries ranging from just north of St. Augustine, Florida, south to Ponce de Leon Inlet. Sampling protocols developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute for their statewide Fisheries Independent Monitoring (FIM) program were replicated to allow for comparability with FIM program results. Samples were collected monthly from randomly selected stations based on a geographically stratified design. Finfish and selected invertebrates were collected using a 21.3-meter center-bag seine with a 3-millimeter mesh, and a 6.1-meter otter trawl with a 3-millimeter mesh liner. Total estimated fish and selected invertebrate densities were similar to estimates from FIM projects in adjacent areas and were characterized by similar dominant species. Preliminary analysis indicates that observed species distribution patterns were mainly a function of proximity to the three inlets within the study area. The two regions encompassing the northern Tolomato River and the Tomoka River and Basin are farthest from inlets and appear to function as oligohaline nursery areas. Those two areas had the greatest estimated densities of shellfish and juvenile sciaenid (drum) species associated with oligohaline waters (for example, Micropogonias undulatus, Sciaenops ocellatus and Cynoscion nebulosus). Samples near inlets, and between the two northern inlets, had greater estimated densities of species limited to euhaline waters, including juvenile clupeids collected at relatively high abundance and species of marine strays collected in low abundance. Based on correspondence analysis, seasonal variation dominated the ordination of seine samples and spatial variation dominated the ordination of trawl samples; this was due to differences in the number and timing of taxa found near inlets versus oligohaline regions. The absence of seagrass habitat in the Northern Coastal Basins is reflected by the absence of a seagrass-fish assemblage.
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USGS Numbered Series
Seasonal and spatial distribution patterns of finfish and selected invertebrates in coastal lagoons of northeastern Florida, 2002-2004