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Evaluating impairment in Wisconsin Areas of Concern using relative abundance of Smallmouth Bass

Fayram, Andrew H., Weigel, Brian M., Lyons, John, Simmons, Thomas
Aquatic ecosystem health & management 2014 v.17 no.2 pp. 107-114
Micropterus dolomieu, aquatic environment, ecosystems, estuaries, fish, monitoring, rivers, wildlife, Great Lakes, Wisconsin
Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) is an important sportfish and has been suggested as a restoration target species in degraded aquatic environments such as “Areas of Concern” in the Great Lakes basin. Determining expected relative densities of fish and wildlife populations, such as Smallmouth Bass, in least-impacted situations is central to developing effective monitoring programs, assessing the level of relative impairment, determining appropriate restoration goals, and evaluating the efficacy of restoration efforts. We tested a straightforward classification scheme of Smallmouth Bass populations in least impacted non-wadeable rivers in Wisconsin based on parameters related to substrate and geographic location as both variables have been associated with relative Smallmouth Bass density. Coarse-substrate rivers tended to have higher Smallmouth Bass catch per effort values than fine-substrate rivers and southern rivers tended to have higher catch per effort values than northern rivers in Wisconsin. We used the expected Smallmouth Bass relative density estimates to assess the level of impairment of Smallmouth Bass populations in three Areas of Concern in Wisconsin (Milwaukee River and Estuary, Sheboygan River and Estuary, and the Fox River and Green Bay). We found that Smallmouth Bass catch per effort values were significantly higher in Areas of Concern than both the minimum and 25th percentile values for least-impacted rivers and were not significantly different from the median least-impacted values. Based on abundance, it does not appear that Smallmouth Bass populations are particularly impaired in these three Areas of Concern.