Huber, C. G., T. B. Grabowski, K. L. Pope, and R. Patiño. 2014. Distribution and habitat associations of juvenile common snook in the lower Rio Grande, Texas. Marine and Coastal Fisheries 6:170-180.
Common Snook Centropomus undecimalis was once abundant off the Texas coast, but these populations are now characterized by low abundance and erratic recruitment. Most research concerning Common Snook in North America has been conducted in Florida and very little is known about the specific biology and habitat needs of Common Snook in Texas. The primary objective of this study was to describe the habitat use patterns of juvenile Common Snook and their role in the fish assemblage in the lower portion of the Rio Grande, Texas. Secondarily, we documented the relationship between age and juvenile reproductive development. Fish were collected during January-March 2006 from the lower 51.5 km of the Rio Grande using a bottom trawl and boat-mounted electrofisher. Measurements of water quality (temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, etc.) and other habitat traits (bank slope, presence of vegetation or woody debris, flow, etc.) were recorded at each sampling site. We captured Common Snook (n = 225) exclusively in freshwater habitats above river kilometer 12.9. The distribution of juvenile Common Snook was not random, but influenced primarily by turbidity and dissolved oxygen. Sex differentiation and gonadal development based on histological examination of gonads established that age–1 and age–2 Common Snook were juvenile, prepubertal males. There was no difference between the age groups in their overall distribution in the river. However, age-2 Common Snook were associated with deeper areas with faster currents, higher conductivity, and steeper banks. Overall, Common Snook in the lower Rio Grande show substantial differences in habitat use than counterparts in other parts of the range of the species, but it is unclear whether this is due to differences in habitat availability, behavioral plasticity, or some combination thereof.