Perceptions of Fish Habitat Conditions in Oklahoma Tailwater Fisheriess: a Survey of Fisheries Managers

While the downstream effects of dams on fish habitat have long been recognized, broad-scale assessments of tailwater fish habitat have rarely been conducted. In this paper, I report on the status of tailwater fisheries in Oklahoma as determined through a web-based survey of fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation conducted in July 2010. Respondents addressed 38 tailwaters, encompassing all major areas of the state. The majority of fish species comprising these fisheries included blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus), followed by white bass (Morone chrysops), channel catfish (I. punctatus) and flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris). Most respondents indicated no or low concerns with fish habitat in tailwaters under their management supervision; only two tailwaters (Tenkiller Ferry and Fort Gibson) had the majority of concerns with fish habitat identified as high to moderately high. Principal components analysis and subsequent correlation analysis showed that tailwaters that scored high for issues related to shoreline erosion, change in water depth, flow fluctuations, and flow timing were associated with dams with large maximum discharge ability. No other factors related to fish habitat condition in tailwaters were found. In Oklahoma, dams with maximum discharge of at least 6,767.5 m3 sec-1 were more likely to have flow-related fish habitat concerns in the tailwater.

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