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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Examining Retention-at-Length of Pelagic Fishes Caught in the Fall Midwater Trawl Survey


The Fall Midwater Trawl Survey has provided data on aquatic organisms in the San Francisco Estuary for over 5 decades. In 2014–2015, a study was conducted to investigate and quantify the efficiency of this trawl for catching the endangered fish species Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus). In an analysis based on that study, we calculated retention probability—the probability that a Delta Smelt is retained in the cod end of the trawl—as a function of fish length, and fit a selectivity curve that reflected the relationship between size and retention. Here, we return to the same gear efficiency study and further utilize the data set by (1) fitting selectivity curves for three additional pelagic fish species: Threadfin Shad (Dorosoma petenense), American Shad (Alosa sapidissima), and Mississippi Silverside (Menidia beryllina); (2) refitting the selectivity curve for Delta Smelt to incorporate between-haul variability; and (3) calculating the lengths of 50% and 95% retention in order to characterize and compare the resulting selectivity curves. We also present retention data on age-0 Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), all of which were retained in the cod end. We found that Threadfin Shad, American Shad, and Delta Smelt are 95% retained at 45-, 49-, and 61-mm fork length, respectively. Because data were limited for Mississippi Silverside, American Shad, and age-0 Striped Bass, we used body shape—in conjunction with retention data—to develop hypotheses about selectivity based on whether each species’ body shape resembles that of Threadfin Shad, which are more deep-bodied and laterally compressed, or Delta Smelt, which are more fusiform. We also found that retention-at-length was more variable for Delta Smelt than for Threadfin Shad, potentially because length is a good predictor of retention in deep-bodied, laterally compressed fish, whereas maximum girth is a better predictor of retention in fusiform fish.

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