The Food Habits of Adult Striped Bass from Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, Before and During an Extreme Drawdown

Adult striped bass (Morone saxatilis) ranging in size from 483 to 940 mm TL in a west central Arkansas reservoir (3,000 ha) fed predominantly on gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) and threadfin shad (D. petenense) throughout a 2-year study. Heavy feeding on threadfin shad occurred 1 winter due to colder than normal water temperatures which rendered threadfin shad sluggish and more susceptible to predation. Other species of fish and invertebrates comprised only a minor portion of food items regardless of time of year. An increasing trend in larger size shad consumed by larger striped bass sampled was observed and this positive correlation was significant (P < 0.05). Significantly higher weights of gizzard shad per striped bass stomach were recorded during a 2.7-m extreme fall-winter drawdown than the winter before. An index of fullness (% full stomachs) indicated increased predation by striped bass in the crowded drawdown conditions. The major food items of striped bass did not change significantly during an extreme drawdown and sport fish were minimally preyed upon even with the resulting 20% reduction in lake surface area. Adult striped bass did feed actively during the cooler months; therefore, use of a substantial lake drawdown to control certain prey species can be effective during winter as well as during the warmer months in a lake with an established striped bass population.

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