The capability of early life history stage fishes to access nursery habitat within managed salt marshes is dependent on their ability to negotiate water control structures (WCSs). Knowledge of swimming ability and hydrodynamic preferences is essential to assess the impact of WCSs on fish movement in managed marshes. These data, however, are lacking for many common estuarine fishes, and the utility of the data for the few species examined thus far is limited. We examined critical swimming speeds and derived linear relationships between fish size and swimming speed for juveniles of six common estuarine fish species of the southeast U.S. and northern Gulf of Mexico coasts. White mullet Mugil curema displayed the greatest swimming ability among these six species and was able to swim against currents ≥ 30 cm s−1 higher than the other species examined at the same size. The remaining species displayed lower critical swimming speeds and were classified into groups of moderate (pinfish Lagodon rhomboides, striped mullet Mugil cephalus) or slow (silver perch Bairdiella chrysoura, spotfin mojarra Eucinostomus argenteus, spot Leiostomus xanthurus) swimmers. Our results suggest that high-flow conditions at WCSs would likely preclude the passage of all but the largest juvenile fishes, and passage for most juveniles would occur under low-flow conditions; these flows at WCSs are dictated largely by site-specific tidal and weather conditions.
Wetlands Ecology and Management – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 23, 2017
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