Impact Assessment of Extreme Drawdown on the Watauga Reservoir Fishery

A 70% reduction of total reservoir area during an extended drawdown impacted Watauga Reservoir fish populations. Response to the drawdown and refilling was species specific. Abundance of alewife (Alosa Pseudoharengus) and bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), 2 primary prey species, decreased while young of year gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) increased. Changes in growth and relative weight indicated some predators (walleye Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) benefited by the reduction of lake volume. This was not the case with black bass (Microterus spp). Species composition and relative abundance following the drawdown were similar to those which occur when a new reservoir is filled. The fishery, though affected, was not greatly impacted during the drawdown.

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