Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (ISSN 2330-5142) presents papers that cover all aspects of the management and conservation of inland, estuarine, and marine fisheries and wildlife. It aims to provide a forum where fisheries and wildlife managers can find innovative solutions to the problems facing our natural resources in the 21st century. The Journal welcomes manuscripts that cover scientific studies, case studies, and review articles on a wide range of topics of interest and use to fish and wildlife managers, with an emphasis on the southeastern United States.

 

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Some anglers have questioned Texas’ statewide one-a-day alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) regulation. Simulations suggested other regulations might be preferred; however, angler support for other regulations was unknown. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) administered an online survey in summer 2018 to measure attitudes and preferences of Texas alligator gar anglers. Respondents who fished for alligator gar (= 3980) were primarily Texas resident anglers; 68% fished for gar using a rod-and-reel, but 23% used bow-and-arrow. Most anglers supported using length limits for reducing harvest, regardless of their primary gear. Whereas 40% of anglers fished for alligator gar to eat, most anglers rarely harvested fish, despite having the opportunity to harvest one fish daily.

Literature on recreational fisheries has shown that many aspects of the fishing experience that are non-catch related influence angler satisfaction. However, satisfaction as an independent metric may fail to produce sufficient information regarding perceptions of fishing quality, which may be a more salient component of the fishing experience from a management perspective. Therefore, this study focused on what influences fishing quality in the minds of anglers. We used data collected from a year-long, on-site survey of anglers at the Marben Public Fishing Area (PFA) near Mansfield, Georgia, USA, in an ordinal logistic regression model to investigate angler perceptions of fishing quality. Anglers ranked the quality of fishing at Marben PFA as 6.45 (SD = 2.19) on a 1–10 scale, and significantly higher (t = 5.79, df = 803, P = 0.001) than similar fishing sites with comparable access costs.

In Texas, freshwater fishes recognized as State Threatened or Endangered (STE) receive special attention when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) consults with other agencies on projects that have the potential to alter freshwater systems. Regulatory oversight by TPWD of scientific and zoological collections, fish stockings, commercial fishing, disturbances to state-owned streambeds, and exotic species management must also ensure that no adverse impacts occur to STE freshwater fishes. Furthermore, STE species are prioritized by TPWD for voluntary-based investments in research, monitoring, habitat restoration, and habitat protection. Given these and other protections afforded to STE freshwater fishes, it is important that the lists of STE species be frequently assessed using the best available science on status, trends, and threats to species and their habitats.

Marine and estuarine habitats of Florida are biologically productive and economically valuable. They provide a diversity of species with spawning grounds, nurseries, shelter, and food, augmenting fisheries production and supporting a vibrant natural resources-based economy. Additionally, these habitats shelter coastal areas from storm damage, maintain water quality, produce oxygen, and sequester carbon. Although substantial conservation efforts have been implemented to conserve estuarine and marine habitats, these resources continue to be threatened by shoreline development, altered hydrology, pollution, dredging, mosquito-control impoundments, and climate change. Because of rapid human population expansion, economic growth, and related development pressures, Florida faces the challenge of balancing human requirements with those of natural resource conservation.

Recreational fisheries planning and management relies on an engaged public with support in the form of fishing license sales and expenditures that fund operations and provide education and outreach services. To improve our understanding of two minority population segments with low historic participation in freshwater recreational fishing in Alabama, we examined their fishing participation and non-participation behaviors using focus groups. The objectives of the study were to gather information about 1.) African American and Latinx fishing-related experiences, values, and motivations, 2.) constraints that may prevent individuals of these population segments from fishing in public waters, and 3.) constraint negotiation strategies that may enable them to increase their participation. In spring 2018, we conducted nine semi-structured focus group meetings with African American and Latinx community members in seven urban and rural locations across the state.

Old-field plant communities provide habitat components for several game species, including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). Prescribed fire, herbicide application, and disking are commonly applied to improve forage and cover within old fields, but plant response on sites with nutrient-poor soils is not always favorable. Although it is reasonable to expect vegetation to respond to liming and fertilization, little information exists on how forage nutrient content and vegetation structure of old-field plants are influenced by soil amendment. We designed an experiment to test the effects of three amendment treatments (lime, fertilizer, lime + fertilizer) on four fields across Tennessee. We tested soils during spring 2017 and 2018 and applied treatment amendments based on soil test recommendations.

Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) are among the most abundant and harvested game birds in North America. As such, their population abundance and vital rates are annually monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with state agencies. Current monitoring indicates a decline in absolute abundance across a large portion of its range in the United States, raising concerns. One theory for this apparent decline is problems with the data used to estimate these vital rates: specifically, biases in the data collection methods (including banding programs) not being representative of the overall population and harvest rates. Therefore, to assess one potential bias in our banding programs, we investigated whether band recoveries of mourning doves in North Carolina and South Carolina are affected by the proportion of urban landscape around banding sites.

Aerial surveys integrating probability-based sample designs have been implemented successfully to estimate relative abundance of wintering ducks in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, but these approaches have not been evaluated in the Atlantic Flyway except for American black ducks (Anas rubripes) along the Atlantic coast. Furthermore, these surveys have not been used to index abundance of other nonbreeding waterbirds. Given elimination or reduction of resources allocated to the Midwinter Waterfowl Survey in the Atlantic Flyway and elsewhere, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) expressed a need for reliable surveys to monitor waterfowl and other waterbirds during autumn through winter.

Corridors are important for many species, especially black bears (Ursus americanus), which use corridors for juvenile dispersal and connectivity among local and regional populations. Black bears are native throughout Alabama; however, historic populations have diminished, in part from habitat degradation and decreased connectivity. At present, only two small populations of black bears occur in Alabama. One is a newly recolonized population in northern Alabama, whose numbers are growing quickly. The other is a remnant population in the Mobile River Basin that is genetically isolated from other black bear populations in the southeastern U.S. Neither population exhibits the spatial growth patterns characteristic of what small populations could achieve. One proposed explanation for the observed limited spatial growth and genetic isolation is a lack of corridors, resulting in decreased connectivity.

Effective wildlife management requires understanding conservation challenges as defined by stakeholders and developing strategic responses to them. Outlining these challenges is the first step in wildlife management decision making. Research has documented how wildlife conservation practitioners and the public prioritize conservation issues, but little is known about the perspectives of people making conservation decisions, exposing a critical blind spot in efforts to effectively manage wildlife. In this case study, we interviewed 19 directors and 29 board members of state wildlife agencies (hereinafter, decision makers) in the southeastern United States to gauge their perspectives on past and current wildlife conservation challenges, and how to respond to them. We used a naturalistic qualitative approach. Results suggest that insufficient funding was viewed as the primary conservation challenge across the southeast, historically and currently.

Bridgewater Tailrace (BWTR) is a 29-km waterway extending from Lake James to Lake Rhodhiss on the Catawba River in western North Carolina. An 18-km reach of the stream is classified as Special Regulation Trout Waters by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC)and is managed as a put-grow-and-take brown trout (Salmo trutta) fishery. Early studies demonstrated recruitment of stocked fingerling (25?75 mmTL) brown trout was highly variable and possibly impacted by elevated discharge water temperatures during late summer months. Recent upgrades to Bridgewater Hydro Station resulted in more consistent minimum flows and dissolved oxygen levels, which may help ameliorate historical recruitment issues. In 2011, the NCWRC initiated a multi-year study to evaluate annual stockings of 10,000 advanced fingerling (200?255 mm TL) brown trout that were stocked during late fall after the threat of elevated discharge water temperatures.

Creel surveys are a common method for collecting information from anglers, and when biological data are sparse, can provide needed data to help biologists evaluate fisheries. For instance, only 272 trout were collected in gill-net and electrofishing samples conducted annually from 2012-2015 to evaluate an experimental trout fishery in Apalachia Reservoir, North Carolina. Thus, we conducted a 12-mo, non-uniform probability creel survey to determine the return of stocked trout to anglers. Because the impoundment had a remote location, we utilized game cameras at two boating access areas to improve our estimates of angler effort. A total of 1535 parties were observed on cameras and 250 were interviewed by creel clerks. Boat anglers expended an estimated 14,410 angler-h (SE=528) or 32.4 angler-h ha?1 of total fishing effort, with an estimated 3447 angler-h (SE=643) directed at trout.

The lower Saluda River (LSR) supports a coldwater, put-grow-and-take trout fishery due to hypolimnetic releases from the Saluda Hydroelectric Project. The LSR has historically been noted for low flows (5.1 m3 sec-1) transitioning abruptly to peaking flows up to 509.7 m3 sec-1 with seasonally hypoxic water. Recent relicensing resulted in changes in the Saluda Hydroelectric Project operation that were intended to improve habitat conditions downstream. In a multi-year study, a combination of tagging and boat electrofishing was used to evaluate mortality, growth, and angler catch and exploitation rates of catchable rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) stocked into the LSR. Each year electrofishing catch rates and angler tag returns of December-stocked catchable-sized trout peaked in December shortly after stocking and declined rapidly in subsequent months.

Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) are a popular sportfish in many Tennessee rivers. In the southernmost extent of the species native range, including Tennessee, smallmouth bass populations tend to display relatively fast growth rates and can benefit from harvest restrictions. Consistent with national trends, recreational access and use of Tennessee rivers has increased in recent years (e.g., paddlesports and angling), but quantitative assessments of this increased use on smallmouth bass fisheries are lacking. Popular smallmouth bass fisheries exist in the Elk River and its major tributary, Richland Creek, and angler access has increased in recent years. The goals of this study were to characterize population structure of smallmouth bass and assess the need for minimum-length limits (MLL) in response to increased fishing pressure in the two Tennessee streams. Both streams were sampled using boat-mounted electrofishing gear in May and June in 2018.

Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) have been stocked intermittently into the Broad River, South Carolina, since 1984, resulting in a popular fishery. Numbers and sizes of smallmouth bass stocked vary annually depending on availability. Two sizes of fingerling smallmouth bass are stocked; however, stocking efficacy of these sizes was unknown. Therefore, contribution and relative survival of small (mean TL=42 ? 0.3 mm) and large (mean TL=150 ? 1.5 mm) fingerling smallmouth bass stocked during 2005?2010 into the Broad River was evaluated by differentially marking with oxytetracycline. The total contribution of stocked fish at age-1+ in the Broad River ranged from 4% to 47% among year classes and was positively correlated with mean spring (March?May) water flows. Further, relative survival of large fingerlings was 7.7 times greater than small fingerlings.

There is a limited understanding of the spatial and temporal variability of tributary use for riverine populations of white bass (Morone chrysops) during the spawning season. We sampled white bass in 10 tributaries of Arkansas River Pool 4 during their spawning season in 2010 and 2011. Each tributary was sampled using boat-mounted electrofishing every third week during the spawning season to assess spatial variability of white bass spawning. One tributary (Caney Bayou) known to be occupied by white bass during the spawning season was sampled weekly to document temporal variability of the spawn. Average (SE) CPUE was 5.5 (0.9) fish h?1 across Pool 4, with CPUE in Caney Bayou averaging 7.5 (1.4) fish h?1. Although Caney Bayou was used during the spawning season both years, at least four other tributaries were also used both years. Spawning was unimodal in 2010, but bimodal in 2011. Water temperature appeared to influence white bass tributary use. When water temperatures reached 13?

Fish growth early in life typically affects recruitment to adulthood. For this reason, fisheries managers stock fish of varying sizes (e.g., fingerling or advanced fingerling rather than fry, which are less expensive to produce) hoping that an initial size advantage results in improved survival. Saugeye (Sander vitreus x S. canadensis) are hatchery-produced hybrids that are stocked into many Midwestern and southern U.S. reservoirs to create sportfishing opportunities. A saugeye stocking program was initiated at Arcadia Reservoir, Oklahoma, in 2017 when 38,110 fingerlings were stocked. In 2018, 146,086 fry were stocked into Arcadia Reservoir. This provided us the opportunity to compare differences in diet, growth, and mortality between two year-classes of age-0 saugeye stocked at different sizes.

Catfish are highly regarded by recreational anglers as sportfish in some areas of North America and are intensively managed by fisheries biologists. Accurate population metrics (e.g., growth, mortality, recruitment, age, and size at maturity) are essential to manage these fisheries, which relies on accurate age estimates for fish in these populations. When otoliths are used for age estimation, they are typically sectioned or ground in a transverse plane, but otolith preparation prior to sectioning may differ. Browning otoliths prior to sectioning to help distinguish annuli has been used by some biologists, but there is a need to determine if this technique results in increased precision. Browning otoliths substantially increases otolith processing time; thus, it should only be done if it demonstrably increases aging precision.

Age estimate precision is essential for fisheries managers when evaluating age structure, growth, and mortality rates for fish populations; therefore, establishing the method with the greatest precision for a particular species is critical. We compared ages estimated from broken and whole otoliths of 693 bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and 432 redear sunfish (L. microlophus) from five small impoundments (6.5?101 ha) in Oklahoma. Bluegill ages ranged from 0 to 10, and redear sunfish ranged from 0 to 9. We observed high agreement and precision between readers for ages estimated using broken and whole otoliths for bluegill and redear sunfish (percent agreement=88%?100%; mean CV=0?5%; average percent error=0?3.5%). Although rare, when bias was observed, the ages of older fish (≥age 6) of both species were underestimated using whole otoliths compared to broken otoliths, and this was more noticeable when evaluating between-reader precision rather than final consensus ages.

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) x blue catfish (I. furcatus) hybrid fry production is variable and inconsistent in hatcheries, and there is sometimes an unsatisfactory reduction in the yield of viable fry that occurs during the final weeks of a spawning season. There are several possible reasons for these inconsistencies of production—this study investigates two: hatchery water temperature and the species of the parental male. Regarding water temperature, broodfish are often exposed to 30°-35° C temperature in ponds during the final weeks of spawning season in late spring, resulting in poor egg quality, hatching success, and fry survival. In this study, broodfish were held at optimal temperatures (26.6° C), and fertilized eggs were incubated at either 26.6° C or 32.2° C to approximate water temperatures of peak and latter part of the spawning season.

Research on alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) has increased during the last two decades; however, assessments of reproduction, growth, and recruitment remain limited for reservoir populations. We collected a total of 562 alligator gar from Falcon Reservoir, Texas, in 2014 and 2018 to estimate onset of maturity, fecundity, timing of spawning, and growth. Additionally, we modeled the relationship between spawning habitat availability and strong year-class occurrence. Age of maturity (50% mature) was 5.6 years for females and 1.2 years for males. Fecundity ranged from 79,518 to 530,398 and averaged 240,183 eggs per female (SE=16,547). Timing of spawning could not be determined because minimal spawning occurred during our study years and only 2 of 191 mature females had spawned. Females grew faster and larger than males. On average, females attained 152 cm TL in 4.5 years, but it took males 9.1 years to reach this length.

Understanding the ability of fishes to tolerate low dissolved oxygen (DO) is important not only to our understanding of the ecology of aquatic systems, but also for flow management in regulated lotic systems. Historical flow management guidelines have been based on critical oxygen concen- trations and incipient lethal levels from just a few species, and data on nongame fish species are lacking. Here we quantify respiration rate, critical DO concentration at routine metabolic rate, and regulatory capacity across temperatures for five nongame fish species. Oxygen consumption patterns rep- resented a continuum between regulation and conformation, as ability to regulate was affected differently by temperature among species, declining with increasing temperature in blackbanded darter (Percina nigrofasciata) and increasing with temperature for banded sculpin (Cottus carolinae).

New supervisory biologists can find themselves tasked with operational responsibilities (e.g., personnel, budgets, procurement, safety) with limited formal training in those areas. This sometimes sudden role change can be jolting, but it need not be debilitating. Here we present information and guidance on various topics ranging from recruiting new personnel and conducting performance evaluations to maintaining a sound safety program as well as confronting legal considerations regarding personal and institutional liabilities for job-related issues. Often, your first task as the new supervisor is to oversee a recruitment effort to fill your old position. This first task is best accomplished by working closely with the designated human resources staff to meet all administrative requirements and deadlines.

Texas contains 307,752 km of streams, creeks and rivers, including 64,686 km of perennially flowing waters. The state maintains public navigability laws that ensure the rights of paddlers and anglers to wade and float many Texas creeks and rivers. However, private ownership of riverbanks limits the number of locations where the public can legally access those waters from land. To confront this reality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and cooperating organizations built partnerships with private riparian landowners to expand fishing and paddling opportunities on publicly navigable creeks and rivers. This was accomplished by securing and leveraging innovative funding sources to establish river access leases with private riparian landowners.

Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 249 km h?1, made landfall on Puerto Rico on 20 September 2017. The extreme precipitation resulting from this hurricane, combined with already saturated soil and the steep, mountainous terrain of the island, led to historic flooding across most of Puerto Rico. Reservoirs in many of the river systems on the island were preemptively drawn down in an attempt to absorb the volume of floodwaters but were quickly overwhelmed. Since many of these reservoirs had been the focus of previous studies, a rare opportunity arose to evaluate how extreme flooding affects lentic systems. We sampled seven of Puerto Rico?s 13 large reservoirs in April and May 2018 using previously-used, published methodologies to compare pre- and post-hurricane characteristics of water quality and fish communities.