Walleyes Sander vitreus are the most popular fish among South Dakota anglers, but smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu were introduced to provide new angling opportunities. Some walleye anglers have reported reductions in the quality of walleye fisheries since the introduction of smallmouth bass and attribute this to the consumption of young walleyes by smallmouth bass and competition for shared prey resources. We quantified the diets of walleyes and smallmouth bass in the lower reaches of Lake Sharpe (a Missouri River reservoir), calculated the diet overlap between the two predators, and determined whether they partitioned shared prey based on size. We also quantified walleye diets in the upper reach of the reservoir, which has a different prey base and allowed us to compare the growth rates of walleyes within Lake Sharpe. Age-0 gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum composed a substantial proportion of the diets of both predators, regardless of location, for most of the growing season; the patterns in shad vulnerability appeared to drive the observed patterns in diet overlap. Smallmouth bass appeared to consume a smaller size range of gizzard shad than did walleyes, which consumed a wide range. Smallmouth bass consumed Sander spp. in some months, but in very low quantities. Given that global climate change is expected to alter the population and community dynamics in Great Plains reservoirs, we also used a bioenergetics approach to predict the potential effects of limiting prey availability (specifically, the absence of gizzard shad and rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax) and increased water temperatures (as projected from global climate change models) on walleye and smallmouth bass growth. The models indicated that the absence of rainbow smelt from the diets of walleyes in upper Lake Sharpe would reduce growth but that the absence of gizzard shad would have a more marked negative effect on both predators at both locations. The models also indicated that higher water temperatures would have an even greater negative influence on walleye growth; however, smallmouth bass growth was predicted to increase with higher temperatures. Fisheries managers should consider strategies to enhance the prey base or mitigate the effects of increased water temperatures that may occur in the future as a result of global climate change. Such proactive actions may alleviate potential future competition between walleyes and smallmouth bass resulting from changes in the fish community.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law