Changes in Diet and Food Consumption of Largemouth Bass Following Large-scale Hydrilla Reduction in Lake Seminole, Georgia

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Largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides Lacepède growth (in length) increased an average of 14% and bioenergetics modeling predicted a 38% increase in total annual food consumption following a large-scale reduction of hydrilla Hydrilla verticillata L.f. Royle in Spring Creek, a 2,343-ha embayment of Lake Seminole, Georgia. Coverage of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) declined from 76% to 22% in 1 year due to a drip-delivery fluridone treatment. In contrast, largemouth bass growth only increased an average of 4% and bioenegetics modeling predicted a 13% increase in total food consumption over the same time period in the Chattahoochee River embyament, where SAV coverage naturally declined from 26% to 15%. Diets were collected from a total of 4,409 largemouth bass over a 2.5-year period in the two embayments; the primary diet item (by weight) for largemouth bass in both embayments was sunfish (mostly Lepomis spp.). Diets before and after SAV reduction were generally similar for fish greater than stock-size (≥203 mm) in the Spring Creek arm; however, fewer invertebrates were consumed after SAV reduction. Low diet similarity was observed in smaller fish, caused by a decline in consumption of grass shrimp and sunfishes and an increase in use of damselflies, shiners Notropis spp., and topminnows Fundulus spp. after SAV reduction. Diets were similar between the same time periods for all sizes of fish in the Chattahoochee River arm. These results agreed with many laboratory results describing the effects of aquatic plant density on largemouth bass food consumption and growth, and demonstrated that increased predation efficiency resulting from decreased plant abundance was likely a stronger factor determining growth rates than any potential diet shift that may occur as a result in vegetation decline.

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