Monitoring post-spawning movement, habitat use, and survival of adult anadromous rainbow smelt using acoustic telemetry in a New Hampshire estuary.

Academic Article


  • Anadromous rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax, [Mitchill 1814]) are found along the northeast Atlantic coastline of North America, with their range now limited to north of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. Although their anadromous life cycles are described broadly, gaps remain regarding how adult rainbow smelt use estuaries post-spawning, including movement behaviors, habitats used, and specific timing of emigration to coastal waters. In spring 2021, we used acoustic telemetry to characterize movements during and after the spawning season of rainbow smelt captured in tributaries to Great Bay, New Hampshire, USA, a large estuarine system near the southern edge of their range. Forty-four adult rainbow smelt (n = 35 male, n = 9 female) were tagged with Innovasea V5 180-kHz transmitters and an array of 22,180 kHz VR2W receivers were deployed throughout Great Bay to detect movements of tagged fish from March to October 2021. Rainbow smelt were detected 14,186 times on acoustic telemetry receivers, with 41 (93%) of the tagged individuals being detected at least once post-tagging. Individuals were detected moving between tributaries, revealing that rainbow smelt can use multiple rivers during the spawning season (March-April). Mark-recapture Cormack-Jolly-Seber models estimated 83% (95% confidence interval 66%-92%) of rainbow smelt survived to the mainstem Piscataqua River, and a minimum of 50% (22 of 44) reached the seaward-most receivers and were presumed to have survived emigration. Most individuals that survived remained in the estuary for multiple weeks (average = 19.47 ± 1.99 standard error days), displaying extended use of estuarine environments. Downstream movements occurred more frequently during ebb tides and upstream movements with flood tides, possibly a mechanism to reduce energy expenditures. Fish emigrated from the estuary by mid-May to the coastal Gulf of Maine. Our results underscore that rainbow smelt need access to a variety of habitats, including multiple tributaries and high-quality estuarine habitat, to complete their life cycle.
  • Authors

  • Pearson, Chloe F
  • Hammer, Lars J
  • Eberhardt, Alyson
  • Kenter, Linas W
  • Berlinsky, David L
  • Costello, Wellsley J
  • Hermann, Nathan T
  • Caldwell, Aliya
  • Burke, Emily A
  • Walther, Benjamin D
  • Furey, Nathaniel
  • Publication Date

  • May 20, 2024
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In


  • anadromy
  • biotelemetry
  • movement ecology
  • rainbow smelt
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 38769029