“These results suggest bed fishing may not cause population level declines in reproductive success or number of fall recruits.”
Assessing Population Level Impacts of Catch-and-Release Angling on Reproductive Success and Recruitment in Florida Bass Micropterus floridanus
John Hargrove , Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL Nick Trippel , Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Eustis, FL Mike Allen , Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL James D. Austin , Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Assistant Professor – University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Black basses (Micropterus spp.) are the most popular recreational freshwater sport fish in North America. Although the majority of captured bass are released alive, studies have identified negative consequences associated with catch-and-release angling. In particular, fishing that targets bass as they defend their spawning nests (bed fishing) has been shown to negatively impact reproductive success as a result of brood loss due to nest predation. Our study evaluated the impacts of catch-and-release angling on fall recruitment and reproductive success in Florida bass (Micropterus floridanus). Eighteen replicate populations were established to mimic local Florida lakes, and in ten ponds nest guarding adult bass were targeted using conventional fishing tackle. Nine months after establishment, all ponds were drained, recruits were enumerated, and fin clips were collected for parentage analysis. Greater number of nests were detected in unfished ponds, however no significant differences were observed in the number of recruits across treatments. Reproductive success was similar in both fished and unfished populations with most fish contributing few offspring. Contributions were detected for both males and female fish angled from their nests. Combined these results suggest bed fishing may not cause population level declines in reproductive success or number of fall recruits.