Distribution and abundance of ichthyoplankton in Florida Bay
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Distribution and abundance of ichthyoplankton in Florida Bay

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    Ichthyoplankton was sampled at 14 stations with 60 cm bongo nets fitted with 0 .333 mm mesh in basins throughout Florida Bay in 1994-1995. In addition, I compared collections made using an epibenthic sled to those made with standard ichthyoplankton bongo nets at four stations during July 19 97- November 1 999 to determine if the two types of gear are complementary. In 1994-1995, in descending order of abundance, Clupeiformes, Gobiidae, Callionymidae, Sciaenidae, Labrisomidae, Soleidae and Blenniidae dominated the ichthyoplankton. Densities of clupeiforms were generally very high (> 100 larvae 100 m -3) or high (10.0 - 99.9 larvae 100 m -3). Gobiid larvae were ubiquitous with highest densities occurring in waters in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico (109.7 larvae 100 m -3), lowest in two of three eastern Florida B ay stations (< 1.0 larva 100 m -3). Spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, dominated larval sciaenid collections and the only other sciaenid identified to species was the sand seatrout, Cynoscion arenarius. Taxa differed markedly between collections taken by epibenthic sled and standard ichthyoplankton bongo nets. Taxa collected with standard ichthyoplankton gear were those that spawn in Florida Bay and have pelagic larvae (i.e., engraulids and gobiids). Taxa collected with the sled were small resident species that have benthic larvae (i.e., syngnathids and cyprinodonts) or taxa that spawn outside the bay, but use the bay as a nursery area (i .e ., gerreids and haemulids). Recently- settled red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus, were collected with the epibenthic sled in November 1999, although juveniles of this important gamefish are rare in the bay.
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