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#06-133 May 15, 2006

DNR releases cobia into Colleton River

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources biologists released about 300 juvenile cobia into the Port Royal Sound May 3.

The cobia, averaging a size of about 3 pounds and 21 inches long, were externally marked with tags that anglers can easily observe and report to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) toll-free fish tag reporting line, 1-888- TAGS-4-SC (1-888- 824-7472).

Already, 10 recaptures from this release have been reported to the toll-free number—five were caught near the Trask Landing where they were initially released, and five were reported from further out in the Port Royal Sound.

“We hope the return rate of anglers calling to report the tags will provide us with additional information about this species,” said Wally Jenkins, DNR biologist. “Recapture rates from previously tagged and released cobia have suggested that as they mature, they return to the Port Royal Sound Estuary. We want to determine what is unique about the estuary for this species.”

For more information on the cobia release, contact Jenkins at JenkinsW@dnr.sc.gov.

The DNR’s award-winning Waddell Mariculture Center is world renowned for its milestoneCobia in holding tank

achievements in aquaculture and fisheries enhancement. This release event was the fifth in a series of releases, dating back to October 2001, of medium-sized (12 inches) and larger-sized (21 inches) externally marked cobia. The fish released this month were spawned in captivity last summer and raised in tanks at the Waddell Mariculture Center over the winter. Releases of 93 similar sized fish last spring yielded a recapture rate of seven percent exclusively from anglers fishing in the Port Royal Sound estuary during summer 2005. Biologists expect to see similar or higher rates of return from this release.

“The objective of the cobia releases is to learn about the movements and habitat preferences of this important species,” Jenkins said. “To date, tag returns have indicated that juvenile fish remain in this estuary all summer and then move into the ocean and head south for the winter.”

Fish that have been released previously have been reported from as far south as Juno Beach, Fla., during their winter migration. Also, one 12-inch fish from a group released in fall 2001 was recaptured last spring in Port Royal Sound, measuring 47 inches in total length and weighing 40 pounds. Al Stokes, DNR biologist and Waddell Mariculture Center manager, said: “Because we have a spawning date and a recapture date for this fish, it becomes a measuring tool for comparing growth patterns for the species as a whole.” The notable recapture also indicates that as fish mature they return to the Port Royal Sound estuary to feed before spawning. 

The data supports the hypothesis that the Port Royal Sound is an important nursery and spawning area for Atlantic Coast cobia and that conserving this habitat is essential to the long-term health of the fishery, according to Jenkins.
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