Science From A Stand Up Paddleboard - Tracking Red Drum

Science From A Stand Up Paddleboard - Tracking Red Drum

Have you ever wondered how fish move, how far they travel, and how long they stay in the same place? I am starting research to answer this question for one of the most popular and coolest fish in coastal waters, the Red Drum. The Red Drum is amazing because it can exhist in all types of water from completely fresh to open ocean.  No one knows exactly how they use all of these habitats from the majestic upper Mobile Delta rivers to the open Gulf of Mexico. To navigate the diverse waterways  where the fish live we've decided to use a stand up paddle board as our main research vessel.


Over the next few months I will catch 100 fish and implant tags in each of them. These tags emit a frequency at 69 Khz with a unique code that allows me to know exactly which fish is which. Fish tags are surgically implanted into the live fish inside of their body cavity and then the fish is sutured back up and live released. These tags are then picked up by receivers that can hear the unique code of each tag and record the exact time and date when each fish passed by the receiver. Currently there are 42 receivers deployed around Alabama from the upper reaches of the Mobile Delta, to the mouth of Mobile Bay, around Dauphin Island, and up and down the Western and Eastern shorelines of Mobile Bay. These receivers have to be placed under water on scuba and there has been many diving adventures, from clear Perdido water, to upper Mobile delta water with Alligators, and underwater pneumatic wrench fun deploying ground anchors. These receivers will allow me to discover how long fish remain in the same area, how far they move over a given time frame, and what factors drive their movement, such as salinity temperature, and time of year.


This data allows us to know which areas we need to protect as essential fish habitat, where the majority of these fish live, and how they use all of the different waters we have available around coastal Alabama. This is important information to know to make sure that habitats and fish are managed correctly to make sure that we have plenty of fish to catch for generations to come! Also I just received a fish tracking device that is like our receivers, but has a computer screen and allows me to actively track and follow fish and visually see when a fish is detected.


This system is mounted to a paddleboard and I am going to follow fish under paddle power all around coastal Alabama, especially when waters get shallow, sometimes for as long as 24 hours so we can see exactly how these fish move! A Stand Up Paddeboard is the perfect platform to navigate these diverse shallow waterways. I can haul everything from car batteries, to giant igloo coolers and any and all fishing gear I could ever want!

Learn more about Reid's Research

Written by Marine Biologist and YOLO Team Rider, Reid Nelson

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