Alternate Title

Gonadal Maturation in the Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, from the Northcentral Gulf of Mexico

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Gonadal maturation of cobia, Rachycentron canadum, was evaluated by examining 508 specimens from its recreational fishery. Specimens were collected off southeast Louisiana to northwest Florida by hook-and-line during February through October 1987-1991. Fork lengths (FL) of these fish ranged from 580-1,530 mm, with corresponding weights of 2.0-43.5 kg. The female:male ratio was 1:0.37. Using a combination of oocyte size frequency and histological assessment of many of the fish, we determined that females were ripe from May through September, with atretic oocytes occurring in some fish from July through October. Degenerating hydrated oocytes in July and October and the presence of resting ovaries in July suggest two major spawning periods; however, monthly gonosomatic indices peaking in May, followed by a steady decline, do not support that finding. Ovaries were placed into undeveloped, early developing, mid-developing , or late developing categories based upon oocyte size-frequency distributions. Developing ovaries had two or three modes of oocytes larger than 30 pm. Batch fecundity was estimated to be 2.6x106 to 1.91x108 oocytes, depending on the size of fish/ovaries. The smallest female with oocytes exhibiting vitellogenesis was 834 mm FL. This fish was 2 years old based its otolith evaluation. The smallest male with an abundance of spermatozoa in its testes was 640 mm FL and 1 year old based on otolith evaluation; smaller males were not examined. Females larger than 840 mm FL had vitellogenic oocytes in March and April. A few fish still had vitellogenic oocytes in early October, but none did by late October. When Gilson’s fluid was used to assess ovarian tissue, the fresh weight of the tissue was reduced by 20% after being stored for 3 months. The diameter of oocytes shrunk about 25% in Gilson’s fluid which was 11% less than those fixed in formalin, embedded in paraffin, and sectioned. Tissue sections from specific individuals, each demonstrating a variety of different developmental stages, were similar regardless of whether they were obtained from the anterior, middle, or posterior portion of either ovary.

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