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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Fish length data are important for assessing sportfish populations and establishing and enforcing length-based harvest regulations. Evidence suggests that fish length can change after preservation in ice. These changes can impact comparison of live-caught and post-catch length measurements and therefore angler compliance to regulations, a concern raised by state law enforcement personnel. Similarly, length changes may skew length-based analyses done by fisheries managers. We evaluated TL changes of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), catfishes (Ictaluridae spp.), black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), and sunfishes (Lepomis spp.) collected in Florida and preserved in coolers of ice for intervals of 3–6 h, 24 h, and 36 h. Our re- sults indicate mean percent shrinkage ranged 0.43%–1.58% among time intervals and fish groups but significantly differed by group and time interval.
Beaver Dam on the White River in northwest Arkansas, built in the 1960s for hydropower and flood control, releases cold water downstream suitable for trout survival. The trout fishery in Beaver Tailwater relies heavily on stockings, as natural reproduction is limited or nonexistent. In 2006, a 330–406 mm protected slot limit was implemented along with reduced stocking rates to increase the number of large rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Beaver Tailwater. Further, a catch-and-release area was changed to a special regulation area (SRA) that allowed harvest but restricted angling to the use of artificial lures or flies with barbless single-point hooks. Outside the SRA bait was allowed, but anglers there were also restricted to barb- less single point hooks. From July 2009 to April 2010, four cohorts of rainbow trout were tagged with coded wire tags, stocked into the tailwater, and sampled monthly using electrofishing to estimate growth and survival.
Native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) have been declining in many areas of their range partially because of introduction of nonnative salmonids. Brook trout biomass and relative weight in the Conway River, Virginia, were evaluated for 24 years using regression to discern trends po- tentially associated with colonization of brown trout (Salmo trutta). The Rapidan River is adjacent to the Conway River and has brook trout but not brown trout, and thus this river was sampled over similar time intervals and served as a reference stream for this case study. Brook trout biomass in the Conway River varied from 21.8 to 58.5 kg ha–1 but displayed no temporal trends throughout the study (r 2 = 0.01; P = 0.81). Concurrently, brown trout biomass varied from 5.5 to 59.9 kg ha–1 and increased during the study (r 2 = 0.63; P < 0.01).
Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), brown trout (Salmo trutta), and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) have been stocked by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (Commission) into rivers and creeks in the mountain region of the state since the 1940s, but few trout fish- ing opportunities have existed in other regions. In December 2016, the Commission began to stock trout once a year into publicly accessible small impoundments across western and central parts of North Carolina. However, no formal evaluations of angler use in response to these stockings had been conducted. The goal of this project was to determine changes in angler effort before and after trout were stocked in two of these systems. At one impoundment, data from a trail camera from winters (December to March) 2015–2016 (no trout stockings) and 2019–2020 (first trout stocking) were analyzed to estimate angler effort.
In North Carolina, wavyrayed lampmussels (Lampsilis fasciola) and spike (Eurynia dilatata) currently are state species of special concern, and rainbow mussels (Villosa iris) are state threatened. As a result of extensive conservation and management efforts, recovery of suitable habitat and im- provements in water quality have made mussel restoration a possibility in the Oconaluftee River within lands owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. As part of restoration efforts, we introduced propagated or translocated individuals of these three species into the Oconaluftee River. Individu- als were marked and stocked at four sites as either free-living specimens or within silo enclosures, and monitoring took place over one growing season (April to October 2019) to record survival and growth. In addition, we included data from mussels in silos remaining on three of our four sites from a previous feasibility study.
Installation and maintenance of artificial nesting structures are established practices for increasing production of secondary cavity nesting waterfowl, especially wood ducks (Aix sponsa). In South Carolina, tens of thousands of nest boxes have been erected on public and private lands. Ad- ditionally, since the early 2000s, black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) have expanded their range into South Carolina and now are nesting sympatric with wood ducks in boxes. We conducted a survey of 364 and 354 nest boxes in 2016 and 2017, respectively, across the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto river (ACE) and the Santee Rivers Delta and Winyah Bay (SRDW) basins in coastal South Carolina. We did not detect a differ- ence in frequency of nest box use between basins by wood ducks (~61%) or black-bellied whistling ducks (~15%).
Bottomland hardwood forests in the southeastern United States provide important food and other socio-physiological resources for several wintering duck species. Duck presence and abundance in these wetlands can be influenced by periodicity and extent of flooding, disturbance from anthropogenic activities, and availability and coverage of certain vegetative communities. We tested if presence of flooding, anthropogenic disturbance, and certain vegetation types influenced wintering duck presence and abundance in Delta National Forest (DNF; Mississippi), the only National Forest which is entirely bottomland hardwood forest. Across 17 surveys of 65 randomly selected wetlands in the DNF in winter 2012–2013, the most abundant duck species included wood duck (Aix sponsa, 60%), gadwall (Mareca strepera, 20%), and mallard (Anas platyrhynchos, 18%).
Wildlife managers commonly use herbicides to control invasive plant species and maintain early-successional vegetation communities in seasonally flooded moist-soil wetlands. However, there is limited information on how herbicides influence plant and animal communities following application. Thus, we investigated the response of vegetation, food density, and the abundance and activities of dabbling ducks (Anatini) to application of imazapyr herbicide in moist-soil wetlands in Tennessee to control invasive alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides). Imazapyr was applied topi- cally at Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge during July 2011 following an early water drawdown and dry weather conditions. Food density and use and activities of dabbling ducks were similar between treatment and control plots during the year of application and in the subsequent year.
Duck activity patterns have anecdotally been associated with weather for thousands of years. However, these relationships have rarely been tested scientifically. We hypothesized that characteristics of wintering ducks harvested by hunters would be associated with daily weather conditions (precipitation, temperature, and wind speed), and specifically, that smaller-bodied ducks and those with poor body condition would be harvested less frequently in adverse weather conditions relative to 30-year daily normals.
Waterfowl are of significant cultural, economic, and conservation importance along the Texas Gulf Coast. Millions of ducks utilize this region as they move along the Central Flyway each winter. Understanding body condition patterns for these birds has important implications for overwinter survival, breeding success, and population regulation. This is especially true for females, which are typically the limiting sex in ducks. Herein, we an- alyze sex- and age-specific differences in body condition of non-breeding dabbling ducks over the winter hunting season in coastal Texas. We collab- orated with hunters over two winters to salvage, weigh, and measure 1255 dabbling ducks, including blue-winged teal (Spatula discors), green-winged teal (Anas crecca), northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata), gadwall (Mareca strepera), and northern pintail (Anas acuta).
Spring harvest of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) has declined in many eastern states since 2010. In Tennessee, spring harvest de-clines of 30%–50% in south-central counties from 2005–2015 caused concern among hunters and managers. To determine how turkey productivity might be related to the perceived population decline, we radio-tagged and tracked 152 females with VHF transmitters throughout the 2017–2018 nest- ing seasons. We documented nest-site selection, nesting rate, clutch size, hatching rate, renesting rate, and daily nest survival. We used conditional lo- gistic regression to determine which landscape-scale and nest-site vegetation characteristics were most related to nest-site selection by females. We used nest-survival models to determine which temporal, landscape-scale, and site-specific vegetation characteristics were most related to daily nest survival.
Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) are an important webless migratory game bird in North America, with more doves harvested than all other game birds combined. To understand mourning dove population status and inform harvest and land management decisions at local and regional scales, there is a need to evaluate annual survival and changes in population size. To provide estimates of dove survival and associated harvest parame- ters at our study area in Cameron Parish Louisiana, a popular area for dove hunting, we initiated a banding study at two sites on and near the Rockefel- ler Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana. From 2010 to 2018, we banded 957 mourning doves. We used 174 recaptures from our study area with 46 band recovery reports to model annual survival probabilities, recapture probabilities, recovery probabilities, and fidelity to our study area. Our point estimates of survival and recapture probabilities were greater for after hatch year birds vs.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease that affects cervid species including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). As of 2021, it occurs in seven southeastern states, and more discoveries in the region are likely to occur. Hunter education regarding CWD is critical to obtain support for disease management actions that rely on hunter participation but potentially are in opposition to typical hunter objectives. In August 2018, we provided educational programming on CWD to 84 members of a deer hunting club in west Tennessee. After CWD was discovered in the immediate area of the club in December 2018, in spring 2019 we surveyed the attitudes and hunting behaviors of club members. When surveyed five months following discovery of CWD, 86% of respondents expressed extreme or moderate concern about CWD. The number of total deer sightings was the most important factor influencing hunter satisfaction for 70% of respondents.
Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) populations have experienced severe declines in eastern North America from white-nose syndrome (WNS), yet potential secondary effects on maternity roosting and recruitment remain largely unknown. We documented female day- roosting at two locations in the central Appalachians of Virginia, Back Creek Mountain (BCM) and Rapidan Camp (RC), during 2015 and 2016, ap- proximately six years after the regional onset of WNS. We compared roost characteristics with available trees and roosts recorded prior to WNS at the Fernow Experimental Forest (FEF), West Virginia, in 2007 and 2008. Roosts at BCM were smaller than pre-WNS roosts but were otherwise similar in terms of stand condition and species use, though bats selected for red maple (Acer rubrum) at BCM rather than black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) as at FEF.
In the central Appalachians of Virginia and West Virginia, the Virginia northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus; VNFS) is a subspecies of northern flying squirrel generally associated with red spruce (Picea rubens)-dominated forests at high elevations. Listed as endangered by the
Assessing alternative pond production systems that may reduce avian predation of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is of extreme interest to state/federal and private hatcheries. This study evaluated the culture of channel catfish fingerlings in a pilot-scale split-pond system (SPS) and compared it to traditional earthen ponds (TP). Six 0.04-ha ponds were covered by netting and stocked with channel catfish fingerlings at a rate of 200,000 fish ha–1; ponds were evenly split between TP and SPS. Fingerlings were cultured for 99 days and fed a commercial diet twice daily. Fish were fed 4.0% to 6.5% of their total body weight during the first 73 days, then ad libitum until the end of the study due to reduced water temperatures. Production parameters were similar between treatments except for condition factor, which was higher for fish raised in the TP. Channel catfish fingerlings raised in SPS had a more uniform size distribution than in TP.
The life histories of many organisms are directly tied to floodplain inundation for access to spawning grounds, nurseries, and feeding, but many floodplain ecosystems have been altered by anthropogenic activities and are disconnected from associated rivers. The Atchafalaya River Basin (ARB) floodplain, Louisiana, is relatively intact, whereas the upper Barataria Estuary (UBE) has been separated from the Mississippi River by anthropogenic modifications and lacks an annual flood pulse. The lack of connection can alter trophic webs that include fish species such as bowfin (Amia calva). Therefore, bowfin diets in these two floodplain ecosystems were examined to determine if the difference in floodplain connectivity was associated to bowfin diets. Bowfin were collected by boat electrofishing in the ARB (n = 89) and UBE (n =143) from March 2017 to August 2017. Mean percent empty stomachs was similar between basins, with 26% empty in the ARB and 30% in the UBE.
Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) were once viewed negatively by anglers and state agencies, but interest in reintroduction and trophy management of gar has increased in many states across their range, including Oklahoma. Therefore, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is planning to reintroduce alligator gar back into their native range. Thus, biologists decided to implement a food habits study to determine potential impacts of alligator gar to other fish populations in order to address angler concerns about possible reintroduction. The objectives of this study were to describe seasonal food habits and prey selection of alligator gar collected from Texoma Reservoir located on the Texas-Oklahoma border. Fish were mostly collected using gill nets but 36% were also donated by anglers. Diets were pooled into two seasonal groupings (winter-spring and summer-fall).
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 (n = 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.