Using experimental whole lake management to assess the impact of angling during the spawning season on bass recruitment
– Dr. David P. Philipp, Julie Claussen, and Jeff Stein, Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois and Fisheries Conservation Foundation; Dr. Steven Cooke, Carleton University; Dr. Cory Suski, University of Illinois; Michael Allen, University of Florida; and Jeffrey Koppelman, Missouri Department of Conservation
Largemouth bass spawn annually during the spring, creating shallow nests built by the male along lake shorelines. After eggs are deposited by a female and fertilized by the male, the females exit the nest, leaving the male alone to provide sole parental care for the brood for as long as 5-6 weeks. During this parental care period, the males are especially vulnerable to angling. There has been a long-standing controversy over whether or not angling for nesting bass (even catch-and-release) can be detrimental to their individual reproductive success and consequently to population level recruitment. To address this controversy, the ongoing study at Kenauk Nature and the Queens University Biological Station is using two alternative management scenarios (catch-and-release fishing vs no fishing during the bass spawning season), to directly assess how angling nesting bass affects population level reproductive success. Specifically, the two management scenarios were alternated each year in each of the four study lakes for eight years. Following the end of the parental care period each year, snorkelers swam the entire shoreline of each study lake to visually assess relative year class strength. Thus far, we have found that there was a significant decrease in recruitment (as measured by the relative strength of the 1+ year class) for all years in which there was fishing during the spawning season compared to all years in which there was no fishing.
For additional projects conducted in partnership with the Fisheries Conservation Foundation please visit their website at: www.FishConserve.org