Impact of localized harvest on the population of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) of Lake Moomaw, Virginia
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Lake Moomaw, a 1,024-ha flood control reservoir in Bath and Allegheny counties, Virginia contains a migratory population of smallmouth bass that congregate in the headwaters of the reservoir during the spring spawning period, where they are vulnerable to a shore-based, harvest-oriented fishery. The extent of this fishery and resulting effects on the small mouth bass population were analyzed by means of a creel survey in the headwaters area during the spring spawning seasons of 1995 and 1996. Effort, catch, and harvest, as well as user characteristics and motivations data were obtained from direct interviews with anglers using this area. Estimates for 1995 indicated extensive fishing pressure per ha, with 1,167 angler hours per ha spent fishing for smallmouth bass in the headwaters, while in 1996 almost 1,400 angler hours per ha were spent in this area. Catch and harvest rates were relatively low and sustainable during both years, with 124 small mouth bass caught and 82 harvested in 1995, while 318 small mouth bass were caught and 222 harvested in 1996. An extensive capture-recapture study yielded estimates of exploitation rates for small mouth bass in the reservoir of 12- 15% annually. Exploitation of the whole-lake population occurring in the spring headwaters fishery was estimated at 4-6%, while the exploitation rate on the subset of the population using the headwaters during the spring was 11-14%. Analysis of movements of snlallmouth bass in the reservoir using ultrasonic telemetry and dart tag recaptures indicated that the subset of the population using the headwaters was mainly drawn from the upper and middle portions of the reservoir, and that significant amounts of spawning occurred in the lower section of the reservoir as well. Areas used by smallmouth bass for reproduction were documented with summer and fall electrofishing to determine relative abundance of young-of-the-year smallmouth bass in the reservoir, and showed spawning to take place throughout the reservoir. Densities of young-of-the-year shifted as fall progressed, with highest densities in the middle portion of the reservoir in early fall, indicating that reproductive inputs from the headwaters were realized in the lake as fall progressed. The headwaters fishery is a high-profile activity which, during 1995-96, had a low and sustainable impact on the Lake Moomaw smallmouth bass population.
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