Standard Methods for Sampling North American Freshwater Fishes

Chapter 10: Warmwater and Coldwater Fish in Two-Story Standing Waters

Phaedra Budy, Gary P. Thiede, Chris Luecke, and Roger W. Schneidervin


Two-story fisheries occur in lakes or reservoirs characterized by two distinct spatial strata, warmwater and coldwater. These strata develop as the system begins to warm in the spring or summer in response to solar radiation and then separate into an upper warmwater stratum (epilimnion, hereafter referred to as the upper stratum) and a lower coldwater stratum (hypolimnion, hereafter referred to as the lower stratum) separated by the thermocline, a zone of rapidly declining temperatures with depth (i.e., stratification; Figure 10.1). Each stratum or story is dominated by fish species with different physiological constraints, dietary preferences, and behavior.

The original use of the term “two-story” described lentic systems in which the lower stratum was less than 21°C during summer and dominated by stocked salmonids, the upper stratum was dominated by sunfishes or perches, and attempts were made to simultaneously manage both strata as sport fisheries (e.g., Jones 1982). However, the terminology is now used more generally to describe any two-stratum system where a coldwater species dominates the lower stratum, often piscivores; a warmwater species dominates the upper stratum, often a planktivore or omnivore; and both contribute to the sport fishery. In general, the upper stratum is characterized by a large, relatively shallow, littoral zone where a diverse assemblage of fishes interact with the bottom, whereas the lower stratum is characterized as deep and pelagic with fewer fish species.