Seasonal and interannual patterns in the spatial distribution of bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) within a Middle Atlantic Bight estuary were examined using multipanel gillnets fished biweekly at 14 fixed stations in the Sandy Hook Bay-Navesink River estuary during May-November of 1998 and 1999. To characterize habitats along the estuarine gradient, we measured several abiotic and biotic variables concurrently with gillnet sampling. Juvenile (age-0 and age-1 +) bluefish were captured regularly during both years along with large numbers of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), which were confirmed by diet analyses to be bluefish's primary forage species. The date of initial appearance of age-0 bluefish and menhaden in the estuary varied between years and may have been related to interannual differences in seawater temperatures on the continental shelf during spring. Delayed estuarine arrival of prey fishes may have contributed to variability in bluefish diets between years. Within the estuary, bluefish spatial distributions were consistent across seasons and years: bluefish were most common in areas associated with high concentrations of suspended materials and the presence of menhaden. Community analyses also indicated habitat overlap between bluefish and menhaden. Spatial distribution patterns revealed the consistent occurrence of piscivorous bluefish in shallow estuarine habitats that retained suspended materials and aggregated prey fishes. Foraging success of bluefish and other estuarine piscivores may be closely linked with the availability of these productive habitats, highlighting the need for future study of biological interactions and the governing physical processes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Aquatic Science
- Environmental Science(all)