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Subadult (age < 3) Red Drum Sciaenops ocellatus support a valuable recreational fishery, and mortality estimates for young Red Drum are needed for proper management. To obtain these estimates, age-1 and age-2 Red Drum were implanted with acoustic transmitters and external Floy tags in two coastal Alabama rivers (Fowl and Dog rivers). Fates of tagged fish were inferred from stationary receiver detections and active relocations over 1 year. These fates were used in a Bayesian multistate model to estimate instantaneous monthly and annual mortality and emigration rates for each river and overall from both rivers. Instantaneous monthly fishing mortality (F) ranged from 0.001 to 0.112 (annual F = 0.414) in Dog River, from 0.001 to 0.126 in Fowl River (annual F = 0.309), and was 0.001–0.054 (annual F = 0.337) overall. Instantaneous monthly natural mortality (M) ranged from 0.001 to 0.002 (annual M= 0.069) in Dog River, from 0.001 to 0.036 (annual M= 0.178) in Fowl River, and from 0.001 to 0.017 (annual M= 0.090) overall. The overall annual estimate of instantaneous total mortality (Z) was 0.435. The median escapement percentage was estimated at 36.3% (95% posterior credible interval = 19.5–56.0%) using M and Z from the overall model. Unfortunately, the error on this estimate was large and inconclusive as to whether the 30% escapement goal for juvenile Red Drum to the adult population from Dog and Fowl rivers is being met. Monthly residency estimates were typically greater than 0.90, and overall annual residency was estimated at 0.716. Fishing mortality estimates from the current study are higher than recent catch curve estimates that did not include young Red Drum. These results demonstrate that young Red Drum need to be accounted for when generating mortality estimates and provide needed data for the Red Drum recreational fishery.

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This article was published in the journal of Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of the American Fisheries Society.

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