Our study, the first to investigate cellular aspects of the reproductive biology of tautog in natural habitats of the lower Chesapeake Bay, was necessary 1) to describe this species as a determinate or indeterminate spawner; 2) to describe annual and spawning season ovarian cycles at the cellular level; 3) to assess age at maturity based on histological sections of gonad tissue; 4) to estimate batch fecundity for females from the southern portion of the species range; 5) to estimate spawning frequency; and 6) to estimate potential annual fecundity.
A total of 960 tautog (>150 mm total length [TL]) were collected opportunistically between April 1994 and September 1995 from commercial and recreational fishermen (ca.
Female tautog have a less pronounced chin, sloped forehead, and a mottled brown coloration.
Whole unsectioned opercle bones are the accepted method to age tautog (Cooper, 1967; Simpson, 1989; Hostetter and Munroe, 1993).
Percent agreement between macroscopic and microscopic female gonad stages was calculated to evaluate the accuracy of macroscopic staging (used in all previous studies of tautog reproductive biology).
A more precise estimate of tautog spawning season was determined from microscopic gonad stages.
On 25 April 1996, 18 female tautog were collected, fresh ovarian weight was measured to the nearest 0.
25), it was concluded that oocyte development was evenly distributed throughout the ovaries of tautog.
Diel spawning periodicity estimates for tautog at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay indicated that spawning occurs during daylight hours but that spawning windows shift with ebb tidal currents (White, unpubl, data).
Tautog ovarian development was described by eight microscopic gonad stages (Table 1) characteristic of multiple spawning species.
Of the 938 tautog sexed, 522 (56%) were females and 416 were males.
GSI values indicated that tautog spawned from April through June and that peak values occurred in April for the 1995 spawning season (Fig.