Juvenile River Herring in Freshwater Lakes: Sampling Approaches for Evaluating Growth and Survival

Matthew T Devine
River herring, collectively alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (A. aestivalis), have experienced substantial population declines over the past five decades due in large part to overfishing, combined with other sources of mortality, and disrupted access to critical freshwater spawning habitats. Anadromous river herring populations are currently assessed by counting adults in rivers during upstream spawning migrations, but no field-based assessment methods exist for estimating
more » ... venile densities in freshwater nursery habitats. Counts of 4-year-old migrating adults are variable and prevent understanding about how mortality acts on different life stages prior to returning to spawn (e.g., juveniles and immature adults in lakes, rivers, estuaries, and oceans). This in turn makes it challenging to infer a link between adult counts and juvenile recruitment and to develop effective management policy. I used a pelagic purse seine to investigate juvenile river herring densities, growth, and mortality across 16 New England lakes. First, I evaluated the effectiveness and sampling precision of a pelagic purse seine for capturing juvenile river herring in lakes, since this sampling gear has not been systematically tested. Sampling at night in June or July resulted in highest catches. Precision, as measured by the coefficient of variation, was lowest in July (0.23) compared to June (0.32), August (0.38), and September (0.61). Simulation results indicated that the effort required to produce precise density estimates is largely dependent on lake size with small lakes (<50 >ha) requiring up to 10 purse seine hauls and large lakes (>50 ha) requiring 15–20 hauls. These results suggested that juvenile recruitment densities can be effectively measured using a purse seine at night in June or July with 10–20 hauls. Using juvenile fishes captured during purse seining in June–September 2015, I calculated growth and mortality rates from sagittal otoliths. Density, growth, and mortality were highly variabl [...]
doi:10.7275/10693737 fatcat:hqcq3rthcfcabagb5kk6dez35q