Estuarine and Coastal Habitat Use of Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) in the North-Central Gulf of Mexico

Stephen T. Ross, University of Southern Mississippi
Ryan J. Heise, University of Southern Mississippi
Mark A. Dugo, University of Southern Mississippi
Bryant R. Bowen, University of Southern Mississippi


Gulf sturgeon are anadromous, spawning in freshwater and returning to the marine environment to feed. Herein, we document the marine distribution and timing of movement in and out of the marine environment of Gulf sturgeon natal to the Pascagoula and Pearl rivers (MS and LA). From 1999 to 2004, we attached sonic transmitters to 194 fish averaging 151 (MS) to 160 (LA) cm in fork length. We located 56 different Gulf sturgeon in the estuarine or marine environments, some multiple times. Fish were distributed nonrandomly, being found primarily in shallow water (mean = 3.9 m) in barrier island passes. Benthic samples taken at Gulf sturgeon telemetry location sites were dominated by Florida lancelets, sand dollars, annelids, haustoriid amphipods, and mollusks-all documented prey of Gulf sturgeon. Movement into salt water consistently occurred in October and November; movement back into rivers or low salinity estuaries was complete by the end of March.