Paddlefish Movements in the Lower Mobile River Basin, Alabama
Maurice F. Mettee, Patrick E. O’Neil, and Steven J. Rider
Abstract.—This paper describes the movements of 102 sonic tagged paddlefish released in the Alabama River from 2001 to 2005 and 10 sonic fish released in Mobile Bay in 2006, evaluates possible spawning site fidelity at Millers Ferry Lock and Dam, and presents fisheries, river discharge, and lock use data in support of our recommendation to implement January through April fish passage operations at two locks and dams in the Alabama River. Fifty-seven paddlefish released in the Alabama River remained between Millers Ferry and Claiborne locks and dams. Thirty-four fish moved downstream past Claiborne Lock and Dam and inhabited widely separated sites in the Alabama, Tensaw, and Tombigbee rivers. One fish moved upstream through Millers Ferry lock chamber and was detected in Dannelly Reservoir for 2 years. Spawning site fidelity is suggested based on the return of 15 tagged fish to Millers Ferry tailwater area 1 or 2 years following their release. Four of eight paddlefish released in Mobile Bay remained in the Tensaw River system throughout the study. Four other fish were detected above and below Claiborne Lock and Dam in the Alabama River. Movement patterns documented during our study established an important life history link between spawning habitats in the Alabama River, summer feeding habitats in the Mobile–Tensaw River delta, and winter feeding habitats in Mobile Bay. Proposed fish passage operations at Claiborne and Millers Ferry locks and dams should not be expensive to implement and they should not adversely affect navigation, hydroelectric generation schedules, and industrial water needs along the river.