Cedar Bayou

About this Project

The tidal inlets that flow between our bays and estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico are essential for the survival of many commercially and recreationally significant marine species, including Red Drum, Southern Flounder, and Blue Crab, which rely on these passages to spawn and then grow in fertile sheltered waters. The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) is studying how reopening Cedar Bayou, a natural tidal inlet between Matagora and San Jose islands that has been closed since 1979, impacts the population densities of juvenile fish within Mesquite Bay’s seagrass nursery habitat. Quantifying the relationship between tidal inlets and juvenile fish populations is crucial to sustainable fish management along the Texas coast.

Cedar Bayou was re-opened in September 2014. Researchers at the CSSC gathered baseline data on the environment adjacent to the waterway for two years prior to its opening, and monitored seasonal changes in the abundance of fish and crustaceans for a year. The resulting analysis found that densities of sportfish and forage species increased significantly following the reopening of Cedar Bayou, including Red Drum, Atlantic Croaker, Penaeid Shrimp, and Blue Crab. The increases in these species were so remarkable that the overall species assemblage in Mesquite Bay changed statistically following reopening.  In addition, acoustic tracking data strongly indicated that adult Red Drum used the freshly opened Cedar Bayou inlet to migrate to spawning grounds within months of reopening.  Since the 2014 reopening, Hurricane Harvey impacted the inlet’s tidal exchange and caused a dramatic reduction in flow. However, work to again open Cedar Bayou is scheduled to begin in May 2021. 

Research Objectives

  • Establish pre-opening baseline data on nekton assemblages and abundance in habitats adjacent to Cedar Bayou seasonally two years prior to the opening of the inlet.
  • Monitor seasonal changes to fish and crustacean abundance and recruitment for one year after Cedar Bayou has been opened.
  • Determine if adult Red Drum are using Cedar Bayou as a migration route between the estuarine wetlands and breeding grounds in the Gulf of Mexico using acoustic telemetry



(cover photo courtesy of L. Laskowski)