Compatibility and complementarity of alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) as forage fish in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The attributes of alewife and gizzard shad as coexistent forage fishes for striped bass (Morone saxatilis), walleye (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) were evaluated in Smith Mountain Lake, an 8,337 ha hydroelectric impoundment in south-central Virginia. Alewife and gizzard shad larvae exhibited strong spatial segregation which minimized the potential for direct trophic competition and increased feeding opportunities for piscivores. Gizzard shad spawning peaked in June while alewife spawning peaked in July. Daily growth rate of age-0 gizzard shad was 37% greater than for age-0 alewives. Later spawning and slower growth enhanced temporal and morphological availability of alewives to piscivores and reduced the potential for exploitative competition between the clupeids.

Distributional analysis indicated that gizzard shad were primarily uplake and littoral while alewives were mostly downlake and pelagic. Alewives co-occurred with striped bass and walleye during the growing season and were crucial in providing forage for these piscivores. Largemouth bass shared a common distribution with gizzard shad and were more trophically dependent than other piscivores on them.

Prey supply and predator demand were one year out of phase; gizzard shad and alewife production peaked in the first year of life while their predators' cohort production peaked in the second year. Cohort production analysis indicated that over their lifespan, striped bass prey demand (per 1000 fish) would exceed that of walleye and largemouth bass by 17% and 166%, respectively. Lifespan cohort production patterns and ingestibility limitations on prey assured that most predation pressure in Smith Mountain Lake came from piscivores ages 0-2 and was constrained to alewives ages 0 and 1 and young-of-the-year gizzard shad. Prediction of patterns of consumption of alewife and gizzard shad by piscivores was derived from analyses of morphological and distributional availabilities; these agreed closely with actual diets for most predator-prey location, season and age combinations. The alewife appears to be both compatible with, and complementary to, the gizzard shad as a forage species in Smith Mountain Lake. Suitability of alewives for introductions into other reservoirs will vary with the morphometry and management objectives for those waters.