Standard Methods for Sampling North American Freshwater Fishes

Chapter 2: Warmwater Fish in Small Standing Waters

Kevin L. Pope, Robert M. Neumann, and Scott D. Bryan


This chapter describes standardized sampling techniques for routine monitoring and population assessment of warmwater sport and prey fishes in small standing water bodies. Although water temperature regulates growth, survival, and reproduction of fishes, there are no specific criteria that define a warmwater fish community. Dodds (2002) noted that warmwater fish communities tend to be dominated by sunfishes, temperate basses, and catfishes. Perches and pikes are common to coolwater fish communities, and trouts and salmons are characteristic of coldwater fish communities. For this chapter, we focus on species that prefer water temperatures greater than 15°C. Coolwater fishes that are important in small natural lakes or impoundments and not incorporated in other chapters are also included.

As with warmwater fish, there is also no stringent definition of a small standing water body. Small standing waters generally contain less complex habitats and fish communities than large standing waters. For this chapter, an area of 200 ha was selected as the maximum surface area for small standing waters, but surface-area designations may vary regionally. Other than a strict definition based on surface area, the manageability of less complex fish communities in small water bodies along with differences in their physical and limnological characteristics, as described below, help separate them from larger water bodies.

On a broad scale, there are four generic types of small standing water bodies: impoundments (ponds), natural lakes, excavated pits, and dugouts. An impoundment is created by damming a perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral stream in a watershed. A natural lake is a depression in the landscape that gathers water, either by seepage, runoff, direct precipitation, or a combination of sources. An excavated pit results from groundwater seepage into an excavated site that was mined for gravel, sand, rock, or fill for construction. A dugout (referred to as a tank in the Southwest) is created by collection of surface water or well water in an excavated site built for the purpose of watering livestock.