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Keywords:

  • countergradient growth;
  • Cynoscion nebulosus;
  • daily growth

Juvenile spotted seatrout Cynoscion nebulosus growth in Chesapeake Bay was compared to growth from southerly estuaries to examine the potential for countergradient growth variation, and finer scale growth variation within Chesapeake Bay was investigated further. Because spawning and growing seasons in Chesapeake Bay are much shorter than in southern populations, and the bay population is genetically distinct, it was expected that C. nebulosus in Chesapeake Bay may exhibit faster juvenile growth than their southern counterparts. Within the bay, spatial and temporal growth patterns were examined using a repeated measures linear mixed-effects model on individual retrospective growth histories. Juvenile C. nebulosus were collected from seagrass beds throughout Chesapeake Bay in 1997–1999 and 2002; sagittae were removed for daily growth analysis. The calculated growth rate of 1·44 mm standard length day−1 for Chesapeake Bay fish is two to three times that reported for Florida C. nebulosus. Within the bay from 1997 to 1999 (average rainfall years), growth patterns were similar with the fastest growing fish collected from seagrass beds in the central bay, followed by the eastern shore fish with intermediate growth and western shore fish that exhibited slowest growth. These results were reversed (western shore fish growth > eastern shore > central bay) in 2002 (a drought year) even though temperatures across all years were similar throughout the bay, indicating that growth may be influenced by freshwater inflows.