Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Science

College

College of Natural & Health Sciences

Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Chair

Dr. John R. Jackson

Second Committee Member

Frank J. Leone

Third Committee Member

Dr. Joseph N. Stoeckel

Dean of Graduate College

Dr. Jeff Robertson

Abstract

Sauger (Sander canadensis) are a native game fish present in the Arkansas River and have an affinity for high nutrient levels, high turbidity, and deep moving water. Little is known about Sauger habitat use and movement among navigation pools in the Arkansas River. However, they aggregate below lock and dams during winter and early spring leaving them susceptible to overharvest. I caught 330 Sauger using experimental gillnets downstream from dams in two navigation pools. Fish were externally tagged with Floy Tbar anchor tags (FD94). Of the 330 fish tagged, only five were harvested resulting in a low estimation of exploitation at 3.9% adjusted for the rate of angler reporting. Another 50 adult Sauger were implanted with acoustic telemetry tags to assess habitat use and movement using both active and passive receivers. Tracking was limited to four months due to high flow and unsafe boating conditions resulting in missing important Sauger movement events. Interpool movement was detected for 22% of Sauger in both up and down stream directions traveling up to 140 km, suggesting dams may not be restrictive to the species. Sauger in the Arkansas River should be managed as a single population and the species may benefit from interjurisdictional management near state borders. Habitat was delineated based on anthropogenic influences and identified as main channel, channel edge, wing dike, dam, flats, and backwater. Second order compositional analysis of habitat use suggests channel edge is being used the most in Pool 9 and wing dike is being used the most in Pool 10. Third order compositional analysis of habitat use suggests main channel is being used the most in Pool 9 and wing dike is being used the most in Pool 10. Sauger are utilizing habitats that have heavy anthropogenic influences that typically result in fast moving water in the channel and optimal forage opportunity near wing dikes. Future studies should focus on analyzing habitats year-round on a finer scale to determine factors influencing Sauger preference for channel and wing dike habitats.

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