Possible Effects of Changes in Fishing Regulations on a Black Bass Population in the Kentucky Section of Kentucky Lake

Objectives of this study were to collect information on food, prey availability, and growth rates of black bass (Micropterus spp.) and to determine what type of restrictive harvest regulations would be best for their management in Kentucky Lake, Kentucky. The available fish prey/predator ratio (AP/P) in the Blood River embayment was near 1 : 1 until fish reached 300 mm length, and then available prey biomass increased rapidly. Fish prey were the major food item of all 3 species of bass > 150 mm (largemouth bass, M. salmoides, spotted bass, M. punctulatus, and smallmouth bass, M. dolomieui). Length-frequency distributions of bass≥200 mm had a mode of 290 mm, just below the past minimum length limit of 300 mm, and showed that 89% of all bass were less than the new length limit of 360 mm. The distribution pattern was greatly influenced by slow-growing largemouth bass between 2 and 4 years of age. Growth for largemouth bass <360 mm was slower than back-calculated means for Kentucky Lake 20 years ago and for the state-wide means for Tennessee and Kentucky. It appears that a “slot” length limit that protected bass between 300 and 380 mm would have been the best length regulation for Kentucky Lake. It would have allowed harvest of slow-growing fish < 300 mm, protected fish that survived to grow into the “slot” , and allowed greater recruitment of harvestable fish ≥ 380 mm.

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