Smallmouth Bass Management in the New River, Virginia: A Case Study of Population Trends with Lessons Learned

Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) have been the preferred species of New River anglers since the early 1960s. Since the early 1960s, shifts in New River smallmouth bass population conditions have occurred. Some of these shifts are due to changed size limits which altered angler behavior. However, a number of unexplained changes prevent definitive analysis of causative factors. The New River smallmouth bass fishery of 1982 and 1983 was characterized by high numbers of sublegal fish (< 305 mm), slow growth, poor survival, and low relative weights. These characteristics shifted to conditions indicative of a more healthy population subsequent to the implementation of a 279- to 356-mm protected slot limit in 1987. The New River smallmouth bass fishery is currently managed with a 356- to 508-mm protected slot limit, reflecting current management emphases on producing trophy bass, while continuing harvest of numerous bass < 356 mm. Future management of the New River smallmouth bass fishery will incorporate population monitoring, attention to changing angler behavior, and keeping a close watch on environmental factors affecting the fishery.

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