Francis Skalicky, Missouri Department of Conservation
Fish gotta’ swim…
Long before that became a memorable song lyric in the popular musical “Showboat,” it was a well-known fundamental of a fish’s life cycle. In addition to being the impetus for generations of scientific research, that basic principle of fish biology has intrigued anglers for as long as humans have put hooks and nets into the water. Understanding where some species swim to at certain times of the year, how long they stay there and what causes them to travel to those areas and elsewhere has long been the difference between a day on the water and a day of catching fish.
It’s hoped a study currently underway at Table Rock Lake will shed light on those topics for anglers who like to pursue largemouth bass. Besides helping bass anglers at Table Rock, data gleaned from this project will be used in bass-management strategies at lakes around the country.
The project, a radio-telemetry study of largemouth bass, is a joint effort of the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri. The goal of the study, which began in May and continues through 2012, is to learn more about behavior and habitat use of largemouth bass. Earlier this year, 60 legal-sized (greater than 15 inches) largemouth bass were collected from the Kings River arm of Table Rock, surgically implanted with radio tags and released back into the lake.
On a monthly basis, each tagged fish will be tracked for a 24-hour period to monitor daytime and night-time movements. Once each fish is located; GPS location, distance travelled from last location, depth and habitat use will be recorded. The study will gather data on daily, monthly and seasonal travels of largemouth bass. It will also shed light on factors involved in habitat selection. Biologists are hoping to learn more about what times of day and what times of year largemouth bass use artificial habitat structures that have been placed in Table Rock. This will aid future habitat placement efforts by Missouri Department of Conservation biologists.
Having a better understanding of the movements and patterns of largemouth bass throughout the year and gathering data on the depths, structures and substrates where fish are generally located will result in information that can guide anglers to the most productive patterns and areas of the lake.
Anglers who catch tagged fish have an important role in this study, too. A tagged fish can be identified by a radio-tag antenna out of the body cavity and sutures near the fish’s abdomen. Besides a radio tag, each bass in the study was also tagged with an orange tag near the dorsal fin. This tag has a five-digit number unique to each fish. Anglers who catch tagged fish can call the MDC at (417) 334-4859 or email Department of Conservation Fisheries Management Biologist Shane Bush firstname.lastname@example.org When reporting a tagged fish, anglers should provide: The number from the orange tag, length and weight of the fish, the location the fish was caught (GPS coordinates if possible), the overall condition of the fish, the approximate depth the fish was caught at and if it was near habitat structure (if known), and if the fish was released or harvested.
This study is part of the Table Rock Lake National Fish Habitat Initiative, a project designed to maintain and improve fish habitat at Table Rock Lake. Since 2007, the MDC has placed more than 1,500 fish habitat structures in the lake. These structures were marked using GPS. Locations of these structures can be found at http://newmdcgis.mdc.mo.gov/tablerock.
The NFHI project is a joint effort of the MDC, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other organizations. It is a pilot project for a broader national program focused on habitat protection and restoration in reservoirs throughout the country.
More information about this project or about other fishing-related topics in Missouri can be found by contacting your nearest MDC office or by logging on to www.missouriconservation.org.By: Francis Skalicky, Missouri Department of Conservation