Effects of Stocking Adult Largemouth Bass to Enhance Fisheries Recovery in Pascagoula River

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, hypoxia-induced fish kills occurred throughout the Pascagoula River Basin in southeast Mississippi. We evaluated the effect of stocking adult Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus; 200-356 mm total length) into Pascagoula River floodplain lakes to enhance fisheries recovery. We stocked 37 fish/ha into five randomly-chosen lakes in December 2006, whereas five additional lakes were left unstocked to serve as a control. Electrofishing catch per unit effort (CPUE: fish/h) and length-frequency distributions of largemouth bass and bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) were not different between stocked and unstocked lakes one year after stocking. Regardless of stocking treatment, largemouth bass and bluegill mean total length increased significantly and length frequencies shifted towards larger size groups from 2006 to 2007, indicating natural recovery of these populations. Non-metric multidimensional scaling of species CPUE revealed that during 2006, planktivorous shads (Dorosoma spp.) and brook silverside (Labidesthes sicculus) dominated fish assemblage structure in the impacted lakes, but during 2007 it shifted more towards predatory species such as largemouth bass and crappie (Pomoxis spp.). Floodplain lakes impacted by hurricane-related fish kills require at least two years of natural recovery to achieve fish population and community characteristics desirable for largemouth bass and bluegill fisheries.

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