Effects of the 2011 Missouri River flood on walleye natal recruitment and habitat use in Lake Sharpe, South Dakota
February 3, 2019 - Author: W. J. Radigan, A. K. Carlson, M. J. Fincel, B. D. S. Graeb
Journal or Book Title: Journal of Freshwater Ecology
Keywords: habitat use; Lake Sharpe; Missouri River; natal recruitment; otolith chemistry; walleye
Year Published: 2019
Floods affect fish populations in the short term (e.g., entrainment, mortality) and long term (e.g., recruitment, habitat availability), but oftentimes long-term effects are overlooked. In 2011, a catastrophic flood with record peak flows (4,200 m3/s) occurred in Lake Sharpe, a mainstem Missouri River reservoir. The flood’s immediate impacts on the Lake Sharpe walleye (Sander vitreus) population have been documented, but long-term effects on natal recruitment and habitat use have not been assessed. We used otolith chemistry to evaluate spatial patterns in walleye natal recruitment and late-summer (i.e., July - September) habitat use in years before, during, and after the flood to gain insight into long-term flood impacts on the Lake Sharpe walleye population. From 2004 to 2013, all walleye hatched in embayments and main channel habitats as opposed to stilling basins or tributaries, and the majority of age ≥ 1 fish (i.e., age-1 or older) used the former habitats in late summer. During the flood year, natal recruitment remained stable relative to pre-flood levels in embayments (26% pre-flood, 20% during flood) and main channels (74% pre-flood, 80% during flood). Habitat use of age ≥ 1 walleye was generally unaltered by the flood as it remained consistent in embayments and main channel habitats before, during, and after the disturbance. Hence, the Lake Sharpe walleye population was largely unaffected by the flood in terms of natal recruitment and habitat use. Our results highlight the resilience of the Lake Sharpe walleye population to a catastrophic flood, providing fisheries professionals with an otolith chemistry approach for quantifying flood effects on natal recruitment and habitat use and developing spatially informed management approaches (e.g., habitat protection/rehabilitation, harvest regulations).