Ten-year Assessment of the Unique Fishery of the Okefenokee Swamp

The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest freshwater wetland in the United States; however, population dynamics of the fish assemblage within the swamp are poorly understood. Fish surveys from 1992-2001 indicate that two species, bowfin (Amia calva) and flier (Centrarchus macropterus), are the numerically dominant taxa of the eastern portion of the swamp, representing over 88% of all fishes collected. Results indicated that the fish assemblage was persistent and stable in terms of constancy of dominant species presence and their abundances. The four most abundant species, bowfin, flier, chain pickerel (Esox niger), and warmouth (Lepomis gulosus), had high relative conditions in all years. When combined with high catch-per-unit-effort and angler-preferable sizes, these results suggest that the eastern swamp has the potential to support an excellent flier and bowfin fishery, as well as a lesser fishery for chain pickerel and warmouth. Lack of traditional sport fishes and other fishes common to the area was likely attributable to the abiotic conditions of the swamp, specifically low pH levels. Managers should consider publicizing the unique and excellent fishery available in the eastern portion of the Okefenokee Swamp.

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