Use of Mortality Caps to Determine Effectiveness of Black Bass Harvest Restrictions in Tennessee Reservoirs

Evaluations were made of management objectives across Tennessee for 25 largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) populations and 7 smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu) populations. Two models were used; one that calculated mortality caps based on target mean lengths and one based on minimum acceptable PSD or RSD. Mortality caps were calculated over a range of target mean lengths and PSD/RSD objectives and results from each model discussed. Both models suggested that current harvest restrictions for most populations were sufficient to protect fish up to at least 25.4 mm beyond current length limits and to maintain size structure balance within desired PSD ranges. Reservoir populations without size limits or low minimum length limits had mortality caps closest to observed total mortality, warranting additional sampling and possibly more stringent harvest restrictions. Smallmouth bass populations with more restrictive harvest regulations aimed at maintaining high-quality fishing also appeared adequate to reach PSD goals. Mortality caps provide black bass managers with a valuable tool to evaluate current population status using standard spring electrofishing data. Key words: black bass, reservoirs, mortality caps, harvest restrictions

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1408