Patterns of Life History and Habitat Use of an Important Recreational Fishery Species, Spotfin Croaker, and Their Potential Fishery Implications

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Journal Article

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Spotfin croakers Roncador stearnsii, a prized recreational catch, were collected throughout the Southern California Bight, primarily as bycatch from a long-term, scientific gill-net collection effort. The maximum otolith-based age in the present study was 24 years—14 years greater than in a previous scale-based aging study. Multiple models were used to estimate mean length at age, including models that utilize larvae as well as juveniles and adults, and the model selection results suggest sexual dimorphism in growth patterns. The juvenile and adult catch per unit effort reflected a clear pattern of habitat selectivity, with fish strongly preferring soft-bottom habitats. Catches in rocky-reef areas were limited but tended to increase with water temperature. The data also suggest that spotfin croakers segregate themselves sexually during the spawning season, when recreational fishing from jetties will target males and fish caught in bays and estuaries are more likely to be spawning females. These results provide further evidence for the importance of protection and restoration efforts for estuaries and bays along this well-developed coastline. The growth of larvae captured in plankton tows in July and September 2004 was substantially faster than that of larvae sampled in May, which coincided with warmer sea surface temperatures, highlighting a potentially important relationship relating temperature (and therefore geography) and settlement success.