Pioneer Snook in the Nature Coast

What are pioneer snook?

snook being releasedCommon snook (Centropomus undecimalis) are a highly sought-after sport fish found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Lately, anglers are catching many more snook in the Nature Coast than they were just a few years ago. These “pioneer snook” are individuals that appear to be pushing the range limit for the species farther to the north. Researchers think snook are expanding their range and population numbers as average sea surface temperatures increase.

Why study them?

In Florida, fisheries in state waters are managed through a scientific and stakeholder-based process by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Many fisheries stocks in Florida are managed on a regional scale because of factors such as genetic differences. Gaining information about the genetic diversity of the pioneer snook ensures that fisheries managers have the best available data for decision-making.

Emma Pistole, a graduate student in the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences program at the University of Florida, led the pioneer snook genetics project for her Master’s thesis. The goal of her study was to determine if snook between Hernando County and Cedar Key are genetically distinct from the broader stock in the Gulf. She did this by collecting fin clips from adult and juvenile snook through a variety of methods.

Greatness through guides

a fin clip in alcohol to be used in genetic analysis
A fin clip preserved in alcohol.

Local fishing guides teamed up with Emma and UF/IFAS to help with sample collection. Fishing guides in Yankeetown, Crystal River, Cedar Key, and Hernando County were trained in fin clip collection. Many guides were excited about the opportunity to participate! After all, this study helped better the understanding of one of their clients’ favorite fish. Guides brought an extraordinary level of local knowledge about snook and other fish populations. A total of 10 guides in 3 counties collected over 220 samples to the project! That’s a much higher number than Emma could collect on her own. Without these guides, the project would not have been possible.

For more information about the guides who participated in this project, see:

So, is there really anything special about Pioneer Snook?

Emma found that snook in the Nature Coast had lower genetic diversity in comparison to snook in Tampa Bay. The level of differences she uncovered are about the same as the difference observed between Atlantic coast and Gulf coast snook. The Atlantic and Gulf snook stocks are managed separately by FWC. Therefore, the amount of genetic variation observed in the pioneer snook deserves further study because management of these northern Gulf coast snook as a separate stock could potentially be an option.



Posted: July 1, 2019

Category: Coasts & Marine, Community Volunteers, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension, Water
Tags: Applied Research, Citizen Science, Coastal Systems, Fisheries, Fishing, Florida Sea Grant, FWC, InsideNatureCoast, NCBS Graduate Students, NCBS Volunteers, Research


Joe and Joanne Brue
February 16, 2022

Joanne and I loved Capt Dan and with him we caught many personal record fish on many occasions We shared Nature Coast ecology with him for many years We always had Dan fish with us We both are devastated by the loss of his friendship and knowledge Joe and Joanne

December 9, 2021

Awesome post!

Thomas Ries
August 27, 2021

Excellent Work Savanna! I would like to speak with you about your mapping effort; if you have a few moments, let's setup a quick call or virtual meeting...let me know what you're availability is...THANKS! Best regards, Tom

Good news
August 20, 2021

I think this is a real great blog post. Much obliged.

Kate Rose
August 18, 2021

Hey, Samuel. Thanks for your insight. Though this post focuses on my lab experiments, I also conducted a trap study off of Cedar Key similar to what you did with your blue crabs. I collected data on the number of crabs per trap to see if we could observe cannibalism. Looking forward to reporting back with another post once I process that information!

samuel hill
August 16, 2021

I set crab traps on the south shore of East Bay, east of Gulf Breeze, I have a holding pen for the catch and I'm harvesting only blue claw crabs. Left in the pen without an adequate food supply, the crabs are cannibalistic. I would imagine that stone crabs in traps with a long soak time, might exhibit the same behavior.

Marc Minno
August 16, 2021

Nice summary of your work at Suwannee River WMD this summer. Thanks for your help Alex!

Ok ok, letsgo
August 10, 2021

I think this is a real great blog article.Thanks Again. Will read on

Savanna Barry

April 5, 2021

Hi Ana - We do not presently have a volunteer program with NCAP but as we get established we hope that will develop over time. In the meantime, you can explore the UF Water Watch programs and LAKEWATCH programs which both operate volunteer water quality monitoring in the area.

April 4, 2021

Do you have a volunteer program? I live in the area and would love to contribute to my community and the NACP.

Savanna Barry

March 31, 2021

The recipe directions can be downloaded as pdf (link here and in post)

james e morris
March 30, 2021

could you give directions

Savanna Barry

March 24, 2021

Also, I added a link to Water Watch near the end to direct folks to other programs.

Savanna Barry

March 24, 2021

Thank you for the comment and for your efforts with Water Watch. I also coordinate volunteers with Water Watch, it's a great program. All UF partners in the region have already been informed of the project. Apologies for any confusion, the water quality monitoring project outlined in this post is different from Water Watch in that we are collecting a different set of parameters and our data has to meet QA standards set forth by DEP in order to be used in management decision-making. I referenced the historical water quality program in the original post, but did not go into detail. This program is actually getting a much longer-standing one back up and running. Tom Frazer's lab used to run the same program from 1998 to 2019 but the program (called Project COAST) lapsed due to loss of funding and staff turnover. I hope this clarifies and that you will continue to collect samples with Water Watch. The more data, the better!

March 24, 2021

This blog is incorrect about the "commencement" of water sampling. I am a volunteer with Florida Sea Grant and have been taking water samples for them for a few years. Why have we not been informed about this?Maybe you should check with the UF people.

March 24, 2021

This blog is incorrect regarding the "commencement" of water sampling. I am a volunteer with Florida Sea Grant and have been taking water samples for the past few years. Why have we not been informed about this new "project"? Maybe you should talk to the UF folks in area.

Savanna Barry

February 22, 2021

Hi Karl - Sorry but at this time we do not have any submerged grasses available. Also please do not plant water hyacinth or hydrilla because these are invasive plants not native to FL!

Karl La Follette
February 21, 2021

Can we get river grass to plant? EEL Grass is it available? turtle grass, manatee grass, shoal grass, mangrove leaves, various algae, water hyacinth, acorns, and hydrilla etc........ Thanks Savannah

Susan jacobs
January 25, 2021

Jan 25,2021 to whom it may concern, I’m at Cedar key boat launch watching a pelican in distress with a fish in his throat.. I was trying to find help for him. Please keep checking this area for distressed birds! This is the second one I’ve seen Thankyou

Jacqueline Hill
October 21, 2020

Hi Savanna! My husband John Crissman and I have helped you with the shoreline replanting on airport key (name?!). We live at Old Fenimore Mills and are wondering: if we got the volunteers & funding needed could you help us implement a shoreline solution here? !!

Boat Lifts
October 5, 2020

Thanks for sharing your docks building ideas with us. It is useful information for docks services.

Rhonda Mayo
August 30, 2020

Thank you for the info! Rhonda

Savanna Barry

August 30, 2020

Hi Rhonda, We are experimenting with different monitoring methods. In the first pilot test, we just did mass change measurements and visual surveys of percent cover on the outside. But with these we are trying some 3D surface modelling as well as quadrat methods. The monitoring technique is definitely something we are still working on. But we do not plan to remove any of the units like you suggest is common for shell bags. Open to ideas if you have any!

Rhonda Mayo
August 28, 2020

Savanna, the JR-CSA prisms look very promising. How do you monitor/measure the recruitment/settlement on the oyster prisms? Typically with bags, you remove a sample bag. Do you just observe the outside of the prism?

Savanna Barry

August 20, 2020

Thanks for the suggestion!

Jade Anderson
August 19, 2020

This is great news! You all do so we'll reaching out to the public for help. I don't know if it's allowed but for those who don't follow your page it may be beneficial to post this info on Levy county Word of Mouth FB page. I think you you all you gain a lot of followers and hopefully volunteers!

Jim Behuniak
August 19, 2020

Congratulations my friends

Savanna Barry

August 19, 2020

Hi Chris - It varies by project but if you don't take into account the planning and permitting, these projects ranged from 1 day to a few weeks to deploy. Building the materials is also a key part, and that also varies from days to weeks. Honestly, the planning and the permitting is the slowest step but it's very rewarding when you get to deployment day!

Chris Moran
August 19, 2020

Excellent, informative story! I had only been familiar with shell bags, so thanks for the lesson in reef building! How long did each of these projects take? It looks to me like it's labor intensive.

Savanna Barry

August 18, 2020

Hi Donna - absolutely! We can sign for community service hours. The 2020 event registration is open here:

Donna Quincey
August 17, 2020

Will you do this again? I have a son in 10th grade that would like to participate. Could he get someone to sign off on his community service hours if he participated?

June 13, 2020

Nice job guys! Keep up the good environmental work.

Savanna Barry

June 9, 2020

Thank you so much, Nikki! Hoping for a better season this year, let us know how it goes :)

Nikki Webster
June 9, 2020

Hi there, Great article! I did not know that there was a way to report your catch so this was new to me - thanks! I also signed the pledge:) We scallop all season on the west coast and last year was great the first weekend then it was a total bust. Nikki

Avatar photo

June 9, 2020

Hi there! We assisted the City of Cedar Key in hosting the Lighting of the Cedar Key Light Station on Seahorse Key in 2019. This event is usually the week of July 4th, but since many City events have been canceled for the near future we are unsure if this particular event will still happen this year. Please keep an eye on our website and social media pages, as well as the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce pages for any updates!

June 2, 2020

I live in St. Pete. I visited Cedar Key for a week a few yrs back and am again going there for 'laid-back-quiet ' i have been told there is some kinda' ceremony?,festival? Bi yearly event ? where the UF students ? and visotors go out to Seahorse Key and do something? And turn on the lighthouse light! I would be totally interested in being there for whatever

Savanna Barry

May 5, 2020

Modification of natural hydrology is definitely a leading cause of oyster loss - as you say it can go both ways, making water either too fresh, too salty, or too variable for oysters to do well. Hopefully, restoration projects can mitigate this, or at least practitioners should take hydrological conditions into account this fact when they begin an effort. Unfortunately, this also means that many areas where oysters have been lost are no longer suitable for them to return.

Ricky Cooke
May 5, 2020

The biggest thing is the alteration of the fresh water flow. They dug ditches and drain the swamp. When it rains it gets fresh and then it goes back to to salty.

Savanna Barry

April 17, 2020

Thanks, Tom! We have been talking about ways to add mangroves here, perhaps using burlap bags to form amorphous planters. We will check out the resources you shared and also make another blog post if we are ever able to try it and have success. If you are aware of anyone who has added mangroves to limerock without the benefit of the planter trough, let me know!

Thomas Ries
April 17, 2020

Great story and important lesson on options to improve the ecological health of a stark vertical seawall! There are other examples of functioning seawall enhancement efforts, which also include a vegetative component that are now functioning in various locations in both the Tampa and Sarasota Bay area. Ulele Spring in downtown Tampa has an enhanced seawall feature which consists of limestone rock placed in front of a seawall that also includes a planting trough; this sediment tube facilitates the growth of mangroves trees. Four years later, these red mangrove trees are 7 feet tall!. These particular trees can be trimmed to preserve the viewshed, while still providing great habitat for both fish and avifaunal species, in addition to the crustaceans within the rock crevices. Please visit: for more information on this site.

March 16, 2020

I like that fishing can be a stress reliever. So many people, including myself, get so stressed out in their daily lives. It would be great for everyone to find a hobby, like fishing, to take their minds off the troubles of their everyday life in order to just enjoy themselves and to relieve stress. It just seems like it would be better for everyone to stress less and become more calmed and relaxed! That way everyone can enjoy their life more.

Savanna Barry

February 27, 2020

Hi Jim - Thanks for your comments and your efforts to protect dunes! Dune restoration is a really important strategy for both wildlife conservation and shoreline protection. I am not as well-versed on dune issues as I am with marsh and oyster, but I do know that many of our dunes in FL are smaller than they used to be, even after restoration. This is largely related to the high costs of restoration. But every bit we can do to restore and enhance dune elevation and stabilization with beneficial plants like sea oats is a step in the right direction. Dunes take the brunt of coastal storms and they often require restoration after storms. If you are interested in more, check out this really great resource on dune restoration:

Jim Hayden
February 27, 2020

I appreciate your focus on the importance of natural resources to protect our shoreline.. We have a place SeaGrove on the beach..Over the years I have watched the county try a number of things to protect the dunes, including dredging off shore, with little success..I plant sea oats ( grass ) and use sea weed to establish a sound environment for birds and protect the dunes during major storms...While I am proud of what we have achieved over many years, I appreciate it will not be sufficient to totally protect the dunes in a major storm Any other suggestions would be appreciated...

Savanna Barry

February 19, 2020

Hi Daniel - I emailed you the info but you can register for the workshop coming up this Friday at this link:

Dan Wilcox
February 19, 2020

I would like to assist with bird rescue. Please advise when and where there will be training.

December 18, 2019

Great report. Thanks for the update, looks like things are progressing nicely.

Savanna Barry

October 28, 2019

Thank you so much, Denise! We are happy to have you here, too :)

Denise Feiber
October 26, 2019

So fortunate to live along this shoreline and know that UF and partner agencies are working to protect it.

Savanna Barry
October 25, 2019

Thanks, Jim! Great seeing you, too. Keep up the great work with the shell collection and let me know if you want to proceed with any of those shell type tests we talked about. :)

Jim Behuniak
October 25, 2019

Savannah you've always got such good information it was great seeing this past weekend at the living Shoreline Workshop in St Pete

D Voyles
August 16, 2019

As a waterman I deeply appreciate the support of our scientists by the Z-man people. It's so nice to have this research station right here in Cedar Key

August 13, 2019

Thank you for sharing all of this great information. I very much hope to put it to some good use. a.s.a.p.

Savanna Barry

July 22, 2019

Actually the peak spawning time for bay scallops is in the fall so it is likely that the scallops collected in the summer have spawned minimally.

July 22, 2019

I don't think it works that way, Jim. The scallops you're collecting have already spawned. Leaving it there will not impact future scallop production.

Savanna Barry

July 9, 2019

Yes the reports from all over the scalloping grounds are that the scalloping is very slim this year. FWC's surveys also found that the numbers are very low this year. You can provide input to FWC about the fishery at or

July 9, 2019

Went out to my hot spots off St Martins Islands opening day and never seen a single one and again yesterday Jul 8 and seen just 1 and I even drifted for probably a 1/2 mile each day???

Savanna Barry

July 4, 2019

Thanks so much, Tim!

Tim Bonvechio
July 3, 2019

The Gator nation continues to pave the way with cutting edge relevant Fisheries Research that directly benefits Fisheries Management...Awesome study!

Savanna Barry

July 3, 2019

Sorry to hear that, Jim. You can always report your thoughts to FWC using their scallop survey or the saltwater comments section on their website.

July 3, 2019

I found the scallop count to be very low this year from Bayport to Crystal River. it is far less than the FWC reports. i for one will not be going out again for personal gain and environmental reasons. regulation changes need to be made to preserve the fishery. a later shorter season with reduced bag limits.

Compliance Solutions
June 10, 2019

the facts have been discussed is really important. keep doing that

Savanna Barry

March 20, 2019

Thank you so much, Jim!

March 19, 2019

Samara, your article and the project you are engaging in is informative as well as promising based on the samples you continue to collect and what you lesrn from the data. So often, those I would consider ‘lay-folk’ and that may be less aware, can forget how sognificant environmental change can be on any species. I hope your work leads to increased protections for Spotted Seatrout while keeping permitted fisherman happy & informed! So proud of you and the work you’ve undertaken! Excited to watch the journey...... Delethia

Jim Behuniak
March 19, 2019

Great article Savannah keep doing great work

March 19, 2019

Very interesting research and article... Are there plans or are you currently farming these spotted Sea trout to ensure their supply going forward?

D Voyles
March 16, 2019

Wow, I really enjoyed this. It is so well written! I can't wait to see how the data comes out, especially the influence of hurricane hermine which was just a few months after the spawning season. Keep up the good work. Captain V

Savanna Barry

March 11, 2019

Hi Joan - I will email you some information directly. :)

Joan Rich
March 8, 2019

I am interested in helping out. I live on the nature coast.

Kay Davis
November 1, 2018

Hey Will, I looked at the guides you provided and they're pretty awesome. As a fishing enthusiast, I like to explore different areas to broaden my experience. Keep up the great work! Cheers, Kay.

Jackie Kingston
October 22, 2018

Hi Savannah - I am considering an oyster project for my non-profit and would love to discuss with you further some of your lessons learned. Can you contact me or provide your contact information?

Dianne S Polasik
September 17, 2018

NIce article about the hard work folks are doing to obtain data on the health of our fish and waterways!

September 7, 2018

Great team work! Great article!

August 22, 2018

You really did take that sting like a champ! We miss you around here! You Rock!

zigzag whitsundays
August 16, 2018

fantastic post

August 7, 2018

Awesome Job Maggie Long!!! So PROUD of YOU!!b

Savanna Barry

July 16, 2018

Hi Bailie - I will email you to connect you with the graduate student that is doing this work. The post says I am the author on the sidebar but it's actually a guest post from one of our interns that worked in Dr. Peter Frederick's lab.

Bailie Lavan
July 16, 2018

Hi, I have some questions regarding your interstitial space work done here that I would love to discuss with Savannah Barry further. If you are willing to discuss this work with me please e-mail me at your earliest convenience!

Maia McGuire
July 3, 2018

It’s interesting (and depressing) that plastic take-away containers (the newest addition to the “top ten” list, replacing glass bottles) show up in spot #8, and foam containers are in spot #10. If you add both of these together (since both are plastic, just different types of plastic), they would move up to spot #4

Savanna Barry

June 22, 2018

Hi Captain! I do not have any plans to teach the Uplands module of the course but Lars Anderson teaches that in the Alachua area from time to time. Check out often to see when new courses are offered or you can get in touch with Lars at the Adventure Outpost in High Springs (386) 454-0611

Captain KD Meadows
June 22, 2018

I am interested in taking an inlands module for the Master Naturalist Course. I already have Coastal. I will be attending with at least one other person. We both need advance notice after scallop season to get the time off work if need be. Please call me at 239-687-0980 when this class is being offered in the Crystal River/ Cedar Key area. we are willing to travel if it is being help in Wakulla springs.

Savanna Barry

June 22, 2018

Thank you, Emanuel!

Emanuel Harris
June 22, 2018

Love what you guys are doing! Nice to see projects that are actively helping the environment.

Savanna Barry

June 21, 2018

Yes - that's the idea. If you put the shell substrate in the right location, new oyster spat will settle and create a living reef over time.

June 18, 2018

Do these shells attract oth oysters ?

Savanna Barry

February 19, 2018

We use wordpress with a template the whole University uses. I do not have access to the template but it is definitely wordpress.

good games for kids
February 19, 2018

Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part :) I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular info for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

all games play
February 19, 2018

Hi would you mind sharing which blog platform you're using? I'm planning to start my own blog in the near future but I'm having a difficult time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something unique. P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

February 15, 2018

I do need to use a straw, unfortunately, however it doesn't need to be plastic and gping a step further, I wouldn't have a problem bringing my own, reusable from home, when I go out. There are a lot of alternatives to plastic straws.

ayam siam super
February 13, 2018

I found your site on google and check some of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good function. I simply additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!?
February 12, 2018

You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet to the issue and found most individuals will go along with your website. {

February 4, 2018

We had about 50 people at the in-person event and over 2,400 people tuned in for at least some of the program on the live stream.

February 4, 2018

This program primarily focuses on rescuing birds that have been tangled in fishing line, and the majority of birds rescued in this program are pelicans.

Savanna Barry

February 2, 2018

Yes - this is true. Prevention of entanglements is key! Reeling in a bird and removing the hook and line is the best practice when a bird is hooked. See more here: Also, recycling monofilament line using the bins at piers and boat ramps is another great way to keep fishing line out of the environment.

Savanna Barry

February 1, 2018

I am so glad you enjoyed it! We love working in Hagen's Cove with the horseshoe crabs there.

January 31, 2018

“We are a working waterfront and I want to maintain that forever here, as long as we possibly can,” she said. “Without the University we won’t do it. We need to have their help. It’s a partnership.”

January 31, 2018

Please click below to access the data summary newsletter from the spring 2017 sampling season of the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch program.

January 30, 2018

Of course, not all coastal areas have a volunteer bird rescue group to call on and the best way to rescue a bird is to prevent injury and entanglement in the first place. So, how can you take action to prevent unnecessary death of seabirds by entanglement? Follow the steps below, but most importantly Don t cut the Line! Reel.

Savanna Barry

January 19, 2018

Hi Gail - yes! they can sign up using the links above. Only one person on the team needs to register. They can use plastic bottles in the design. They just need to be recycled at the end. Email me at savanna.barry @ if you have any more questions. We hope to see you there!

Gail Ekman
January 7, 2018

Hi This sounds really cool. My son wants to see if his Orange County 4H group would like to design a boat for the regatta. How do they register? Is it ok to use plastic bottles that are reused/ and recyclable? (milk bottles and 2L soda bottles) thank you

Gail Ekman
January 7, 2018

Hi This sounds really cool. My son wants to see if his Orange County 4H group would like to design a boat for the regatta. How do they register? Is it ok to use plastic bottles that are reused/ and recyclable? (milk bottles and 2L soda bottles) thank you Gail Ekman

Savanna Barry

January 5, 2018

Hi Toby - We are very hopeful everything will work out with the current arrangement but if not we will be looking for someone to take the lead on organizing for the county.

Savanna Barry

January 5, 2018

I am so glad to hear it, Susan! Way to go in Bald Point!

Toby Tovar
January 3, 2018

Look forward to a great 2018. Just one question. What happens if Sandra is unable to continue here at Ft. Clinch? We missed the Fall 2017 search.

susan drake
December 24, 2017

Thank you for the feedback. Bald Point up here in North Florida is just getting started and it is wonderful to see the big numbers from Cedar Key area. Be Back in March

Shawn Walker
December 23, 2017

Well done, Savanna, you've generated a lot of interest and support through citizen science participation in the study of horseshoe crabs. Thank you for sharing data and pictures through UF/IFAS blog. Looking forward to participating in 2018.

December 21, 2017

Eddie and jackie have given a talk in this to steinhatchee aarp it was a great information presentation thanks

November 24, 2017

Αrticle writing is als᧐ a excitement, if you know afterward уou can wrіte if not it is difficuⅼt to write.

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