Factors affecting largemouth bass recruitment in a trophy bass reservoir of Virginia, Briery Creek Lake

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Virginia Tech


Briery Creek Lake (BCL) has low abundance of young largemouth bass (LMB) compared to Sandy River Reservoir (SRR), which could jeopardize the trophy-LMB management goal in BCL. I assessed factors that may limit recruitment of LMB in BCL: angling, predation, competition, growth, and food availability. Age-0 LMB were monitored from nesting through their first summer with nest surveys, light traps, and electrofishing. Nesting success was higher in BCL (53%) than SRR (31%). Initial light trap catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) was higher in BCL than SRR but, by July, light trap and electrofishing CPUE was higher in SRR than BCL. LMB nest success, growth, and CPUE did not differ between areas in BCL that were experimentally closed and areas left open to angling. Predation on age-0 LMB did occur in BCL, but was not higher than predation in SRR. Diet overlap between age-0 LMB and bluegill in BCL was >60% during June, indicating potential for competition. Zooplankton samples indicated that density of copepods was similar between reservoirs (2.3/liter); however, the average size of copepods was smaller in BCL (0.42 mm) than SRR (0.71 mm). I examined the activity of trypsin, which digests and converts protein. Trypsin activity was lower in BCL than SRR on 23 and 27 June, indicating that a nutritional deficiency exists for age-0 LMB in BCL. This deficiency was likely caused by the reduced zooplankton size in BCL and led to slower growth of age-0 LMB during June in BCL (0.8 mm/day) than SRR (1.2 mm/day). The fact that age-0 LMB CPUE in BCL dropped lower than SRR by July, despite BCL having a greater nesting success and higher CPUE in early June, indicates that a recruitment bottleneck for LMB occurred in June. Maintaining the trophy LMB fishery in BCL requires management options that consider the factors in June that affect recruitment. I recommend decreasing the presently overabundant aquatic macrophytes in BCL, thus allowing for increased nutrient availability for phytoplankton, the primary food source of zooplankton. This could increase the density and size structure of zooplankton, and thereby increase food availability for age-0 LMB.



Competition, Predation, Food Availability, Growth, Recruitment, Largemouth bass