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Fall Spawning of Atlantic Sturgeon in the Roanoke River, North Carolina

Smith, Joseph A., Flowers, H. Jared, Hightower, Joseph E.
Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 2015 v.144 no.1 pp. 48-54
Acipenser oxyrinchus, acoustics, anadromous fish, developmental stages, eggs, habitat preferences, habitats, research planning, rivers, spawning, spring, telemetry, water temperature, North Carolina
In 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus to be threatened or endangered throughout its range in U.S. waters. Restoration of the subspecies will require much new information, particularly on the location and timing of spawning. We used a combination of acoustic telemetry and sampling with anchored artificial substrates (spawning pads) to detect fall (September–November) spawning in the Roanoke River in North Carolina. This population is included in the Carolina Distinct Population Segment, which was classified by NOAA as endangered. Sampling was done immediately below the first shoals encountered by anadromous fishes, near Weldon. Our collection of 38 eggs during the 21 d that spawning pads were deployed appears to be the first such collection (spring or fall) for wild-spawned Atlantic Sturgeon eggs. Based on egg development stages, estimated spawning dates were September 17–18 and 18–19 at water temperatures from 25.3°C to 24.3°C and river discharge from 55 to 297 m ³/s. These observations about fall spawning and habitat use should aid in protecting critical habitats and planning research on Atlantic Sturgeon spawning in other rivers.