Resource-use, body condition and parasite load metrics indicate contrasting health of stocked and native game fishes in Canadian prairie lakes.

Lushani Nanayakkara, Peter Leavitt, Bjoern Wissel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study evaluated the status of native and stocked fish species in 13 prairie lakes in central Canada over eight years (2007–14) using three metrics: resource‐use (benthic versus pelagic carbon via stable isotopes); body condition (relative weight index Wr); and parasite load (cestode gut enumerations). Analyses included game and non‐game fishes, like naturally occurring northern pike, Esox lucius L., and yellow perch, Perca flavescens Mitchill, but focused on stocked walleye, Sander vitreus (Mitchill) because it supports a robust recreational fishery. Walleye and northern pike were significantly more reliant on benthic carbon than yellow perch or forage fishes (p < 0.05), but this reliance was not associated with any measured environmental variables for any species. In lakes with game fishes, forage fishes exhibited higher reliance on benthic energy, possibly due to predator avoidance strategy, particularly yellow perch. Walleye body condition index was consistently lower (<95–105) than values exhibited by the other two game fishes (81–139), and parasites were only common in walleye and associated with lake‐water salinity (r2 = 0.93, p < 0.05) and sex (p < 0.05). Based on the results, the most desirable game fish, walleye, appears less resilient to environmental variability than northern pike and yellow perch, making this species more susceptible to impacts of future climate change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFisheries Management and Ecology
Early online date16 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 16 Oct 2020

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