The spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) is an estuarine-dependent species that supports one of the largest and most popular inshore sport fisheries along the southeastern United States and in Florida. Because of this, the species is highly regulated in Florida, with minimum and maximum size limits, a daily recreational bag limit, and a closed season.
It is important that we understand where, when, and what affects the quanity that spotted seatrout spawn. The current trend in Florida coastal population growth will impact fish that spawn close to shore, both through increased fishing pressure and spawning habitat degradation. Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest and most industrialized estuary, and because spotted seatrout spawn primarily in estuaries, this is an ideal location to begin mapping spotted seatrout spawning habitat. Because Florida spotted seatrout are managed based on spawning potential ratios (Spotted Seatrout Stock Assessment), there is also a need for a better understanding of spotted seatrout reproductive biology. Specifically, we need to understand how many eggs a female spotted seatrout will produce in a spawning season and what factors may affect the number of eggs produced. This type of information is critical if we are to protect spawning fish, allowing them to produce future generations.