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Metabolic response of bluegill to exercise at low water temperature: implications for angling conservation

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The metabolic response of fish to exercise is highly dependent on environmental factors such as temperature. In addition to natural challenges that force exercise (foraging, avoiding predators, etc.), sportfish species are also subjected to exercise when they are hooked by anglers, leading to metabolic energy costs that may impact fitness. While several studies have examined the physiological response of fish to capture in warm conditions, little work has examined this response under cold winter conditions when fish are targeted by ice-anglers. To fill this gap, we examined the metabolic impacts of exercise duration and air exposure on bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus, at a temperature typical for ice angling. Thirty-two bluegill were subjected to a simulated angling session which included either a light (30 s) or exhaustive exercise procedure, followed by either 30 s or 4 min of air exposure. Fish were then assessed at 5 °C for the following metabolic metrics using intermittent-flow respirometry: standard metabolic rate (SMR), maximum metabolic rate (MMR), aerobic scope (AS), recovery time, and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Fish exercised to exhaustion had higher EPOC compared to lightly exercised fish, however EPOC was not affected by air exposure time. No other metrics were impacted by air exposure or exercise duration. These results are directly applicable to physiological outcomes for fish captured by ice-anglers during the winter and suggest that both low temperatures and low durations of exercise serve to keep metabolic costs low for fish angled during the winter months.

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The authors would like to thank Justin Rondón for his assistance with all aspects of executing the experiments. This research was funded by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Project via the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, project F-69-R to J.A.S. All research was performed in accordance with guidelines established by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), protocol # 15169.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Louison.

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Winter, H.N., Louison, M.J., Stein, J.A. et al. Metabolic response of bluegill to exercise at low water temperature: implications for angling conservation. Environ Biol Fish 101, 1657–1667 (2018).

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