Changes in Body Condition and Diet of Lotic Smallmouth Bass across Two Flow Regimes during Summer Months at the Southern Extent of Their Native Range
Christopher R. Middaugh and Daniel D. Magoulick
Abstract.—The Ozark Plateau is located at the southern extent of native Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu range and water temperature and drought conditions during summer months may potentially affect growth of Smallmouth Bass in this region. Groundwater streams in the region do not warm to the same extent as runoff streams during summer months and could provide a thermal refuge habitat for Smallmouth Bass from high summer temperatures and drought conditions. Our study objective was to examine differences in body condition and diet of Smallmouth Bass through summer months between groundwater and runoff streams. We sampled Smallmouth Bass from eight streams across two flow regimes monthly from June–September from 2014 to 2016 in the Ozark Plateau of Arkansas and Missouri. Relative weights were calculated and diet contents were examined for each fish. Linear mixed model analyses indicated that relative weights declined in both stream types in 2014 and 2015, but not in 2016. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in change in relative weights between runoff and groundwater streams in any year. No diet shifts over the course of the summer were noted in any year, and no differences were seen between stream types. Our results suggest that further work should investigate the refuge qualities of groundwater streams for Smallmouth Bass in this region as Smallmouth Bass from both stream types may currently respond similarly to summer conditions.