Stop #6 is the east side of George’s Trail.
The Indian River Lagoon is a type of estuary, a place where salt and freshwater mix. Freshwater comes from rivers, lakes, rain and manmade canals, saltwater comes through the six inlets from the Atlantic Ocean.
Tarpon, snook, mullet and shrimp are all examples of animals that spawn offshore but rely on the calm, protected waters of the Indian River Lagoon for the critical beginning stages of their life cycle.
No surprise: estuaries are nicknamed the ocean’s nursery.
Of the five snook species that live in the Indian River Lagoon, the common snook is the most abundant. On Florida’s east coast, the common snook spawns from May through October during new and full moons.
Near sundown, the males surround the females and bump them until they release their eggs. With the simultaneous release of sperm and eggs, the eggs are fertilized instantly.
Roughly 18 hours later, snook larvae hatch. The hatch time depends on water temperature: cooler water means slower hatching time.
Ichthyologists (scientists who study fish) think that the larvae migrate to the bottom on outgoing tides to avoid being swept out to the open ocean. They migrate into the water column on an incoming tide and ride into the estuary. This migration usually takes place at night when plankton is most abundant near the surface, so snook larvae can feed on microscopic plankton as they ride the tide.
Juvenile snook have very special locations where they settle each year.Here, they can obtain enough food to grow fast, yet escape predation. Though there are miles of shoreline that do not harbor snook, one location may harbor thousands of them.These special locations must be protected.