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Movement patterns of smallmouth and largemouth bass in and around a Lake Michigan harbor: The importance of water temperature

Carter, Mark W., Weber, Michael J., Dettmers, John M., Wahl, David H.
Journal of Great Lakes research 2012 v.38 no.2 pp. 396-401
Micropterus dolomieu, Micropterus salmoides, acoustics, bass, habitats, home range, lakes, radio telemetry, spawning, spring, summer, water temperature, Lake Michigan
Smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu and largemouth bass M. salmoides in southwestern Lake Michigan use shallow, warm harbors for spawning during spring. After the reproductive period ends in early summer, catch rates from standardized sampling of smallmouth bass in harbors decrease. Fishes are presumed to use the main lake during summer but little is known about how black basses use main-lake habitat in Lake Michigan or mechanisms driving this transition. We tracked smallmouth bass (N=26) and largemouth bass (N=8) using radio and acoustic telemetry during 2005–2006 near North Point Marina, IL. A temperature difference persisted between inside and outside the harbor for much of May–October where harbor temperatures were generally warmer than those outside the harbor. Smallmouth bass responded to water temperature changes, inhabiting the harbor until temperatures outside the harbor approached 18.5°C, at which time they left the harbor. Frequent temperature fluctuations of >3°C occurred outside the harbor within 24-hour periods. Sudden reductions in water temperature were associated with smallmouth bass temporarily returning to the harbor until the temperature outside the harbor again approached 18.5°C. As water cooled during fall, smallmouth bass again returned to the harbor. Largemouth bass exhibited comparatively restricted movements during this time and rarely ranged outside the harbor. Thus, home range estimates for smallmouth bass (142.6ha) were an order of magnitude greater than those of largemouth bass (12.9ha). Both water temperature and species played a role in determining the degree of movement outside the harbor but both black basses used the harbor as a thermal refuge.