Cynoscion nebulosus is among the top predators in many estuaries, and sometimes is the only large carnivore in an estuary (Tabb 1966). Small seatrout 20-50mm (0.8 - 2 inches) SL are planktivorous and feed primarily on copepods (Moody 1950; Tabb 1961; Adams et al. 1973; Rutherford et al. 1982; McMichael and Peters 1989). Larger seatrout, to 70 mm (2.8 inches) in length feed primarily on benthic invertebrates, especially mysids (Moody 1950, Darnell 1958; McMichael and Peters 1989). A dietary shift occurs once seatrout reach approximately 40 - 150 mm (1.6 - 5.9 inches) and begin to feed more on penaeid shrimps and small fishes (Moody 1950; McMichael and Peters 1989). Indian River Lagoon seatrout were reported to consume shrimp in the summer and early winter, the most abundant period for shrimp; but switched to fish in late winter through spring (Tabb 1961).Cynoscion nebulosus feed in midwater or near the surface, with major food species including anchovies, pinfish, silversides, mullet, croakers, menhaden, snapper, gobies, mojarras and silver trout (Moody 1950; Darnell 1958; Adams et al. 1973; Rutherford et al. 1982). Competitors: Probable competitors for both food and space, particularly in the early life history stages include other sciaenids, pinfish, menhaden, catfishes, anchovies and silversides. Various types of invertebrate larvae may also compete with larval seatrout for copepods and other zooplankton (Tabb 1961; Rutherford et al. 1982).Adult seatrout are likely to compete with other shrimp-feeding and fish-feeding species such as sand trout, Cynoscion arenarius; redfish, Sciaenops ocellatus; flounders, Paralicthyes spp., catfishes, snook, Centropomus spp., snapper, jacks, and tarpon, Megalops atlanitcus (Johnson and Seaman 1986).Predators:Larger fishes are the major predators on Cynoscion nebulosus. Predatory birds, especially osprey, also impact seatrout populations. Habitats: Cynoscion nebulosus are commonly found in shallow, vegetated, brackish and marine waters to a depth of approximately 10 m (32 feet). They are often associated with seagrasses and saltmarshes adjacent to deeper channels that are used as refuges from temperature extremes (Moody 1950; Tabb 1958).Larvae are most common in shallow seagrass beds in bays and lagoons during the summer months. Juveniles and pre-recruits measuring less than 355 mm (13.9 inches) TL associate with seagrasses, though some are found in channels and backwater areas as well (Tabb 1966; McMichael and Peters 1989). Adults occur in a wide variety of estuarine habitats including shallow seagrass beds, oyster reefs, over sand bottoms, deep holes, in mangrove creeks, and in areas having manmade structures such as docks and piers.In Florida, spotted seatrout tend to spawn and live in particular estuaries, never migrating more than short distances (Johnson and Seaman 1986). Spawning habitat includes the non-tidal areas of estuaries and bays, deeper channels adjacent to seagrass beds, near tidal passes and also nearshore waters outside of estuaries (Pearson 1929; Tabb 1961; Tabb et al. 1962; Jannke 1971). Activity Time: Spawning typically occurs at night with individuals in the school lightly bumping one another along the sides as males in the school produce croaking and grunting sounds by vibration of their swim bladders. Feeding occurs most actively in the early morning hours (Johnson and Seaman 1986).
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