LIVE OAK, FLA, SEPTEMBER 23, 2022 – The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) and the University of Florida have extended a partnership that will assist in providing new data that will help protect the region’s water supply.  

The project will study migrating snook and help identify thermal refuge habitats utilized by the fish along the Suwannee River. Not usually common to this region, snook have continued to migrate upstream along the river in recent years, finding warm refuge in various springs, including both Fanning and Manatee, during colder winter months.  

This study would expand those efforts, identifying new habitats that may be used by snook, and support the District’s Office of Minimum Flows and Minimum Water Levels (MFLs) as it develops new metrics and modeling approaches to protect the region’s water resources. Fish and wildlife habitats are one of the many factors looked at when determining MFLs.  

“Minimum flows and levels are set to limit harmful impacts to our natural systems” said Sean King, chief of the Office of MFLs. “Initial results show that snook depend on sufficient spring flow to survive in the Suwannee River when the temperature drops in the winter. Studying these fish will provide us with information to help the District set more accurate MFLs and better protect our water resources.” 

Snook are caught and tagged with acoustic receivers that allow their seasonal movement patterns to be tracked and will provide researchers better understanding of which springs are being utilized for refuge. It also allows a direct correlation to the amount of refuge offered, which correlates to the amount of flow from those specific springs.  

This is similar to research done in previous years relating to the manatee and its migration.  

“The SRWMD has been a good partner of ours for a long time and we work collaboratively together on a number of projects,” said Dr. Micheal Allen, Director of the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station. “This is a big step forward for us to improve water management, in trying to bring the science to bear for minimum flows and levels for some major springs. The partnership is what is making this happen.” 

The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people. Headquartered in Live Oak, Florida, the District serves 15 surrounding north-central Florida counties.