An Examination of Migratory Behavior of Selected Finfish Species through a Cooperative Fish Tagging Program with Commercial Ocean Fishing Piers in Long Bay South Carolina. – Year I
During the fall "run" of sciaenids, DNR will contract with several commercial fishing piers in the Grand Strand region (Long Bay) of South Carolina’s coast to cooperatively tag several hundred (possibly thousands) of fish with plastic streamer tags (provided by Hallprint). These species will include spot, croaker, whiting (southern kingfish), and weakfish. Tags will be labeled with serial numbers, the DNR name, and a toll free telephone number for reporting tags. It is anticipated that recreational fishermen on the piers will be enlisted to donate their fish to the program. Trained DNR staff or representatives will be present to tag and release fish. As an incentive, the DNR will arrange for participating fishermen to get merchandize or discounts from the pier operators. Pier managers have shown an interest in working with DNR to set up appropriate incentives. This may include providing fishermen with tokens that can be redeemed at the pier tackle shop. Fish will be held temporarily on tanks to determine basic health before being released.
- To determine the feasibility of tagging large quantities of fish through a cooperative study with commercial fishing piers.
- To examine the migratory behavior of selected marine fishes including croaker, spot, weakfish, and whiting.
- To help determine if sciaenid species from the South Atlantic Bight move into the Mid Atlantic Bight to contribute to spawning stocks.
- To provide information on species composition and size composition of fish caught on South Carolina’s commercial ocean fishing piers.
Sciaenid species such as croaker, whiting, spot and weakfish are abundant along the US East Coast. These species typically grow larger north of Cape Hatteras than they do south of that point. Additionally, they also mature at a much smaller size in the southern part of the range. Larger sciaenids from Chesapeake Bay have been observed to migrate south during late fall or early winter to offshore of Cape Hatteras. These fish are thought to migrate northward during spring, probably to spawn in the Middle Atlantic. A recurring issue with these species is stock identification. Mitochondrial DNA has suggested there is enough gene flow between the regions to indicate a single stock. More recent genetic studies question that finding, proposing that two stocks exist. Studies of variations in anatomy also suggest two stocks, and recent examination of endemic parasites indicates two separate stocks (for croaker). Some suggest that sciaenids from the South Atlantic Bight migrate to the Middle Atlantic Bight and contribute to spawning stocks in that region. This was the presumption used in requiring the use of by catch reduction devices in the South Atlantic shrimp fishery in the ASMFC weakfish management plan. Although studies have been done tagging sciaenids, they have been relatively small in scale and inconclusive. With this study, we will attempt to tag and release several hundred, possibly thousand, through cooperative tagging with recreational fishermen on commercial piers. This fishery has historically been a fishery in which most of the catch is retained for consumption; therefore incentives will be required for fishermen to give up their catch. Information gained in this study will be useful in helping determine if fish do indeed migrate into the Middle Atlantic from the South Atlantic Bight.