Walleye Movement, Distribution, and Habitat Use in Laurel River Lake, Kentucky

Movement, distribution, and habitat use of walleyes (Stizostedion vitreum) in Laurel River Lake, Kentucky were determined by radio-tracking 35 walleyes for 605 days (mean = 249 days) from March 1994 through November 1995. The goal of this study was to increase the angler utilization of walleyes in Laurel River Lake by educating anglers on walleye movement patterns, habitat usage, and distribution within the lake. Walleye movement (as measured in distance between weekly locations) was highest during the spring (median = 120 m/day) and lowest during the summer (median = 53 m/day). During the summer, most walleyes confined their activities to specific areas of the lake and were often located in the same area during consecutive weeks. Activity areas ranged from 2 to 590 ha with 75% of walleyes utilizing areas <300 ha. Walleyes were widely distributed throughout the lake during each season, although only 2 walleyes remained in the upper Laurel River arm during July and August. Walleyes predominately oriented to standing (flooded) timber located only in coves on an annual basis (53%) and even more (59%) in the summer. Walleyes moved deeper as summer progressed, which coincided with an increase in the median depth of the thermocline. During summer stratification, walleyes selected water temperatures averaging 23.0 C (mean depth 6.1 m). Walleyes were most active at night, with mean peak movements occurring at 0200 hours (396 m/hour) in the spring, 2200 hours (174 m/hour) in the summer, and 0400 hours (198 m/hour) in the fall. Walleyes typically moved out of the timbered coves at night and either traveled along the shoreline, suspended at the edge of timber near the mouth of the cove, or suspended in open water in the main lake. Walleyes usually returned to the same cove by morning, although they occasionally returned to a nearby cove. Information gained from this study should improve walleye angler success in Laurel River Lake and perhaps in other southern reservoirs. Walleye harvest is expected to increase in Laurel River Lake as anglers use the information gained from this study.

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