Habitat use of age 0 Alabama shad in the Pascagoula River drainage, USA
Alabama shad (Alosa alabamae) is an anadromous species that spawns in Gulf of Mexico drainages and is a NOAA Fisheries Species of Concern. Habitat degradation and barriers to migration are considered contributing factors to range contraction that has left just the Pascagoula River drainage population in Mississippi. We studied juvenile life history and autecology in three rivers within the drainage. We collected fish, habitat and physicochemical data in three habitat types (sandbar, open channel and bank) from June to October 2004–2006. Sandbar habitat was favoured by smaller individuals early in the year. Catch per unit effort (CPUE) decreased through the summer as larger fish began occupying bank and open channel habitat. The most parsimonious model of abundance included year and river variables, while patterns of presence and absence were best explained by river, habitat type and physiochemical variables. While all three rivers in the drainage contained Alabama shad, fish were less abundant and had lower condition values in the Chickasawhay River. Earlier work suggested the Alabama shad may gradually move downstream towards the Gulf of Mexico in their first year. However, we found no evidence of this and captured large fish high in the drainage late in the year.