Life History Aspects Of Smallmouth Buffalo And Freshwater Drum In Wheeler Reservoir, Alabama

The life histories of smallmouth buffalo (lctiobus bubalus) and freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniensl were studied during 1966-1968 in conjunction with the evaluations of commercial fishery gear on Wheeler Reservoir. In this reservoir, smallmouth buffalo grows as fast as or faster than it does in other reservoirs. They are 5 to 6 years old and 17 to 19 inches long before they are abundant in the commercial catch. Drum growth is slower in Wheeler than in other waters; they are not important commercially until they are 7 to 8 years old and 16 to 19 inches long. Asiatic clams, 1 to 2 mm in diameter, and copepods were the dominant food items for all sizes of buffalo. Drum less than 10 inches fed primarily on diptera larvae; those over 10 inches fed primarily on Asiatic clams greater than 10 mm in diameter and gizzard shad. Peak spawning periods in 1967 were mid-April for smallmouth buffalo and late-May for drum. REproduction potential of both species is high. Female drum, 8 to 13 pounds, had an average of 686,000 eggs; smallmouth buffalo, 5 to 6 pounds, averaged 230,000 eggs. All male drum in age-group IV and all females in age-group VI were mature. All male and female buffalo were mature in age-groups VI and VII, respectively. Larvae of both species were collected in the reservoir; smallmouth buffalo were spawned artificially in indoor tanks. According to tag returns, buffalo moved an average minimum distance of 7.0 miles and a maximum of 56 miles. The study emphasized the need for more effective gear to harvest the surplus of small drum.

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