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Tuesday, January 26 • 3:20pm - 3:40pm
Seasonal Patterns of Blue Catfish Habitat Selection in a Hypoxic Ohio Reservoir

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AUTHORS: Geoffrey B. Steinhart*, Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Joseph D. Conroy, Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Stuart A. Ludsin, Ohio State University, Aquatic Ecology Laboratory; Richard D. Zweifel, Ohio Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Many Ohio reservoirs experience seasonal reductions in quality and quantity of fish habitat due to high temperatures and hypoxia. In October 2011, > 13,500 yearling (about 285-mm total length) blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus were stocked into Hoover Reservoir (central Ohio) to diversify angling opportunities and take advantage of excess prey fish by introducing an open water predator tolerant of warmer temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen than many other sport fish. To quantify seasonal habitat use of these newly-stocked predators, acoustic transmitters (Vemco V9L) were surgically implanted in 50 catfish prior to stocking. Approximately biweekly mobile surveys (VR100) were used to determine catfish habitat use from October 2011–November 2012. To compare available habitats with the occupied habitats, a growth rate potential (GRP) model was created to provide spatially-explicit growth predictions throughout the reservoir based on water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and prey abundance. Catfish were primarily located in upstream end of Hoover Reservoir from stocking until January when some catfish started to move toward the lower basin. During spring and summer, when hypoxia dominated deeper waters, catfish were located mostly in the middle and upstream areas where hypoxia was not as great. In fall, after turnover reduced the extent of hypoxia, most fish were found in the middle and lower end. Catfish appeared to select areas with moderate GRP: avoiding areas with low oxygen (which reduces GRP) but not necessarily selecting areas with the highest prey abundance. Overall high prey abundance may have limited the benefit of inhabiting areas with the highest prey abundance and resulted in fish choosing habitat based on other environmental parameters.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 3:20pm - 3:40pm EST