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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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.

This project sought to classify 108 Oklahoma impoundments based on water quality as well as determine if water-quality parameters in these impoundments influenced the relative weight (Wr) of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), white crappie (Pomoxis annularis) and black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). Agglomerative hierarchical clustering and subsequent discriminant analysis of seven water-quality parameters resulted in the grouping of impoundments into three classes. Chlorophyll-a, salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen were the most important explanatory variables (83%) in impoundment classification. Class-1 impoundments (primarily located in east central and southeastern Oklahoma) had low salinity and pH values. Class-2 impoundments (spread statewide with a high concentration in the central part of the state) had mid-range pH and mid to low-range salinity values. Class-3 impoundments exhibited higher salinity and pH values.

State fisheries agencies are increasingly conducting habitat enhancement projects due to reservoir aging and associated habitat degradation, and evaluations of the effectiveness of habitat introductions are crucial to ensure desired results. Artificial habitat structures built from plastics may last for decades, yet their effectiveness has been variable?possibly due to construction materials,shape, and placement. During 2014 and 2016, we compared fish use of artificial structures built from two plastic types (PVC and plastic mesh) deployed in clustered or linear configurations in Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas, and we also compared methods (scuba versus fixed video camera) for evaluating fish use of the structures. We observed 14 fish species and 11,078 total fish during the study. Six centrarchids (bluegill [Lepomis macrochirus], spotted bass [Micropterus punctulatus], black crappie [Pomoxis nigromaculatus], longear sunfish [L. megalotis], largemouth bass [M.

Trail cameras were deployed from 1 October 2015 through 30 September 2016 to measure angling effort at three lakes on the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Sandhills Game Lands. Images were quantified via computer software and analyses were conducted to assess total angling effort as well as temporal (e.g., AM vs. PM, weekday vs. weekend, and seasonal effort), angling method (boat vs. bank), and demographic (male vs. female, youth vs. adult) calculations. Indian Camp Lake was the most used site by anglers throughout the study (1640.3 ± 32.2 angler-h) followed by Crappie Lake (675.0 ± 14.9 angler-h) and Kinney Cameron Lake (482.3±11.1 angler-h). Mean angler effort was highest in the spring at Kinney Cameron Lake and Crappie Lake but was equally high at Indian Camp Lake in the spring and summer. At all three lakes, anglers expended more effort on average in the afternoons and weekend days.

Impacts of feral hogs (Sus scrofa) on native plant and animal communities have increased as feral hogs have expanded in geographic range. Wildlife managers use a host of tactics to manage population growth of feral hogs, including recreational hunting with dogs. However, hunting with dogs can cause disturbance and behavioral changes to non-target species. We monitored 161 eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) over 147 days during 2014-2018 in South Carolina to evaluate turkey movement behaviors and range sizes before, during, and after spring feral hog-dog hunts. The average daily distance traveled per bird in the two-week period preceding hunting was 1940 m (SD = 899; range 158-10,048 m). Average dai- ly distances traveled decreased by 0.3% on days during hunts but increased 15.6% during the two-week period following hunts. Daily distance traveled decreased by 9% on hunted days compared to non-hunted days.

Sustainability of eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, hereafter turkey) populations following translocation is dependent on reproductive success. Extensive efforts to restore turkeys to east Texas using translocation have yielded mixed results, leading to low-density, fragmented populations. Dynamics of a translocated turkey population are dependent on the outcome of nesting activity and nest success which can be influenced by vegetative characteristics selected by females when nesting. Because translocated turkeys transition from natal to new habitats, understanding patterns of nesting activity and vegetative characteristics selected by nesting females are important to continued restoration of turkey populations. We translocated 78 female and 23 male turkeys from Iowa, Missouri, and West Virginia to southern Angelina National Forest near Zavalla, Texas, during 2016?2017.