Effects of a Smallmouth Bass Minimum Size Limit on the Shenandoah River Sport Fishery

A minimum size limit of 305 mm for smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) in the Shenandoah River was evaluated by creel surveys to determine the limit's effect on the sport fishery. Smallmouth bass harvest decreased from 24/ha prior to the limit to an average of 6/ha after the limit. The catch and release fishery increased from 19/ha to 1111ha. Despite the restricted harvest, the number of legal bass (≥305 mm) harvested remained unchanged and average size decreased from 348 mm to 330 mm. Channel catfish (lctalurus punctatus) harvest decreased 91 %, but sunfish harvest increased more than 57%. Smallmouth bass growth rates were unchanged by the size limit, but annual mortality for ages III-V bass increased from 0.51 to 0.65. Increased mortality rate is thought to be the reason that bass harvest (≥305 mm) did not increase.

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