A whole-lake experiment to control invasive rainbow smelt (Actinoperygii, Osmeridae) via overharvest and a food web manipulation
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Invasive rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) have spread rapidly throughout inland lakes of North America with detrimental effects on several native fishes. To test for the potential to control this species, we conducted an experimental removal of rainbow smelt in Sparkling Lake, Wisconsin during 2002–2009. We combined intensive spring harvest of rainbow smelt with an effort to increase predation on this invasive through restricted angler harvest of walleye and increased stocking of walleye (Sander vitreus). Over 4,170 kg of rainbow smelt were harvested during the experiment; up to 93% of adults were removed annually. We observed a significant decline in rainbow smelt gillnet catches during the removal. However, rainbow smelt relative abundances began increasing upon cessation of the removal effort. Bioenergetics modeling suggested that despite achieving higher than the regional average walleye densities, walleye consumed only a fraction of the rainbow smelt standing stock biomass. Our findings suggest that removal of rainbow smelt from invaded lakes may be difficult, and reinforce the importance of prevention as a strategy to limit the expansion of this invasive fish.
KeywordsBioenergetics Overharvest Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) Walleye (Sander vitreus)
We thank Steve Carpenter, Tim Kratz, Stacy Lischka, and John Magnuson for guidance and help in the development of this project and comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviews for helpful comments. Our research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research program and a NSF Biocomplexity award as well as a Graduate Engineering Research Scholars Fellowship to J. Gaeta. B. Roth and G. Sass were supported by a NSF Integrated Graduate Research and Education Traineeship. We thank Jeff Bode of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for help in changing the fishing regulations on Sparkling Lake. We also thank David Gilroy, Jeff Hinke, Damon Krueger, Katie Lee, Liz Leavitt, Steve Martell, Pam Montz, Brad Ray, Jim Rusak, Laura Smith, Scott Van Egren, and Michelle Woodford for help with field data collection and laboratory analysis.
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