Small Impoundment Management in North America

Chapter 8: Stunted Fish in Small Impoundments: An Overview and Management Perspective

D. Derek Aday and Brian D. S. Graeb


Variation in the size of adult fishes has intrigued fishery biologists and managers for decades, particularly because of the importance of body size to both species biology and angler satisfaction. In the case of the former, body size is strongly correlated with important parameters such as growth rate, fecundity, and survival (e.g., Werner and Gilliam 1984), such that the dynamics of many populations are heavily influenced by the size that adults in the population achieve. From a more pragmatic standpoint, body size is a (if not the) primary response variable in recreational fishery management. As a result, a predominant theme in fisheries research over the years has been quantifying and manipulating factors thought to be associated with variation in growth rate and population size structure.

One component of this research has included attempts to understand stunted body size in fish, and ponds have been central to this study, serving both as experimental units that can be relatively easily manipulated in mechanistic investigations and as important fishing locations for recreational anglers. Early pond research at Auburn University by Homer Swingle and colleagues (see Chapter 1), for example, laid the foundation for investigations into mechanisms associated with stunting as well as potential management manipulations to remedy stunted populations; 70 years later, ponds and small impoundments remain central to stunting literature.