Potential recruitment of age-0 Walleye Sander vitreus to adults is often indexed by the relative abundance of age-0 individuals during their first summer or fall. However, relationships between age-0 and adult Walleye abundance are often weak or nonsignificant in many waters. Overwinter mortality during the first year of life has been hypothesized as an important limitation to Walleye recruitment in lakes, but limited evidence of such mortality exists, likely due to difficulties in sampling age-1 Walleye during spring. The objectives of this study were to: 1) compare results from nighttime electrofishing to index relative abundance of age-1 Walleyes with relative abundance indices of minifyke nets in four eastern South Dakota lakes; 2) determine whether size-selective mortality was occurring in those four lakes; and 3) if size-selective mortality was occurring in these lakes, determine whether that mortality was attributed to body condition. We sampled four natural lakes in eastern South Dakota 2 wk after ice-off in 2013 and 2014. Precision of nighttime electrofishing (coefficient of variation ¼ 216.6) was greater than that estimated for minifyke nets (coefficient of variation ¼ 338.5) across both years. We detected no differences in length-frequency distributions of collected spring age-1 Walleye between the two gears. Age-0 fall relative abundance indices from electrofishing were significantly greater (P, 0.01) than spring age-1 nighttime electrofishing indices of relative abundance at three of the four study lakes, indicating that overwinter mortality may occur at a substantial rate during the first year of life for Walleye in these systems. Quantile–quantile regression plots showed evidence of size-selective mortality in three of four lakes sampled. However, body condition of age-0 Walleye appeared to have little to no influence on overwinter mortality. Instead, we suggest that smaller-sized walleye may be more vulnerable to overwinter predation. Collectively, these results provide evidence of previously hypothesized overwinter mortality within the first year for Walleye and indicate possibilities for indexing potential adult recruitment of Walleye just after this critical period.
- Overwinter mortality
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Nature and Landscape Conservation