Standard Methods for Sampling North American Freshwater Fishes

Chapter 3: Warmwater Fish in Large Standing Waters

L. E. (Steve) Miranda and Jeff Boxrucker


Large standing waters are defined as those larger than 200 ha. Water temperature is a major determinant of fish assemblages in large standing waters of North America (Matthews 1998). From a thermal perspective, waters are broadly classified into coldwater (inhabited by trout and salmon) and warmwater (intolerable to trout and salmon). Warmwater fish assemblages follow latitudinal and altitudinal gradients, although there are no sharply defined geographical divisions and some standing waters host assemblages with a mixture of warmwater and coldwater fish species. Standing waters that support warmwater fish include reservoirs created by dams and natural lakes created by fluvial and geologic processes. Most reservoirs in North America tend to be in temperate to subtropical latitudes and are largely warmwater (Kennedy 1999).

The most common warmwater fishes in large standing waters include the sunfishes, herrings, catfishes, suckers, temperate basses, and pikes (Jenkins 1975; Crisman 1992). Reservoirs and natural lakes generally have similar species composition when they occur at similar latitudes, although species prevalence may vary. Physical characteristics of large standing waters have a propensity to play a greater role than water body origin in determining fish assemblage (Matthews 1998). Factors such as water depth, water clarity, trophic status, connectivity to a river system, and water residence time tend to exert great influence over warmwater fish assemblages.