Tilapia Aurea (Steindachner), A Rapidly Spreading Exotic In South Central Florida

Tilapia aurea were introduced into Florida by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in 1961. Original stocking was in managed pits at Pleasant Grove Research Station. From this beginning they have spread to numerous private ponds, four creeks, two rivers and several public lakes. Enriched bodies of water are preferred habitats and native species present have not retarded establishment of T. aurea. Most of the present study was conducted on Lake Parker, a 2291 acre eutrophic lake in Polk County. Surveys of the fish population on Parker revealed seasonal congregations of T. aurea. This gregarious behavior was correlated with temperature and habitat preference. During January and February, the species was heavily congregated at an electro-power plant. Water temperatures at the plant ranged as high as 9 degrees Fahrenheit above background lake temperatures. Concentrations were also evident in areas where the lake bottom was primarily muck. As water temperature increased, tilapia competed with centrarchids for sand-bottom spawning areas. Length-weight studies revealed above average empirical weights, when compared to Alabama pond-raised tilapia. A 14 day creel, randomly selected over a 2 month period, was conducted on the lake to determine catachability.

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