Evaluation of a Five-Year Shoal Bass Conservation-Stocking Program in the Upper Chattahoochee River, Georgia
Michael J. Porta and James M. Long
Abstract.—In 2003, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service initiated a 5-year Shoal Bass Micropterus cataractae stocking program below Morgan Falls Dam in the Chattahoochee River, Georgia with a goal of restoring population abundance to historic levels and to provide further sportfishing opportunities. Shoal Bass were marked with oxytetracyline (OTC) and stocked as juveniles at one of two size-classes (Phase I [~25 mm total length] and Phase II [~60 mm total length]) in spring (April–June) each year (2003–2007). Contribution to the adult population was evaluated by collecting adult Shoal Bass with boat electrofishing from 2007 to 2011 and viewing their otoliths for the presence of an OTC mark. Stocked Shoal Bass dominated the total sample of adult fish collected (60%), and most of these fish (83%) were stocked at the larger Phase-II size-class. Based on results from multiple regression modeling, stocked age-3 Shoal Bass catch per unit effort was positively related to mean size at stocking and spring water temperatures. Total mortality of Shoal Bass in this population was low (20%) with increased longevity (14 years) and slow growth rates. Overall, the 5-year Shoal Bass stocking program was successful in increasing Shoal Bass abundance in the Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls Dam.