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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

David W. Willis


yellow perch, population management, South Dakota, glacial lakes, fish populations


The relative abundance of three year classes of yellow perch Perca flavescens were monitored from the larval stage until age 1 in six glacial lakes located in eastern South Dakota in order to determine whether year-class strength could be indexed at the larval stage. Variation in annual peak larval abundance varied among years within lakes. In East 81 Slough, Sinai, and Waubay lakes, ranked peak larval abundance was significantly correlated with CPUE of age-0 yellow perch in August seine hauls; however, these measures of abundance were not correlated in Enemy Swim, Pickerel, and Madison lakes. Correlations between peak larval abundance and subsequent estimates of abundance were inconsistent both within and among lakes likely due to variation in gear effectiveness across lakes and the ineffectiveness of some gears in collecting yellow perch. Study duration prevented clear determination of when yellow perch year-class strength can be indexed. The potential effects of hatch timing and daily growth on the early development of age-0 yellow perch were assessed in the same six lakes. Hatching dates were estimated from daily ring counts made from sagittal otoliths removed from larval yellow perch collected in late May-early June with surface trawls. Larval sampling and August seine hauls suggested that only one cohort of age-0 yellow perch was produced in these lakes during each year. Over the three years of the study, yellow perch hatched between April 28 and May 16. Hatching intervals were generally short, ranging from 5 to 11 d in duration. In 2001, when larval yellow perch cohorts were produced in all six lakes, mean hatch dates significantly differed among lakes; these differences did not follow a latitudinal gradient, but appeared to be related to differences in lake area and volume. Mean daily growth rates ranged from 0.16 to 0.49 mm/d among lakes. In 8 of 10 cases, daily growth rate of larval yellow perch was significantly related to hatch timing (r = 0.36-0.77, P < 0.05), with later-hatched perch tending to experience faster growth rates than those hatched earlier in the year. Daily growth rate explained 44-83% of the variation in length of larval yellow perch at time of capture. Hatching intervals for yellow perch in these lakes were much shorter than some previously reported estimates in the literature and likely made larval yellow perch populations in these lakes more susceptible to losses resulting from periods of harsh environmental conditions. Characteristics of the winter yellow perch fishery (e. g., ice fishing) were assessed for several South Dakota glacial lakes. Seasonal harvest information obtained during creel surveys on seven lakes demonstrated that the percentage of anglers targeting yellow perch and perch harvest tended to be higher during winter periods. Exploitation of yellow perch was estimated on two lakes through tag-return studies. Non-reporting rates from surrogate postcards varied between angler groups (19-52%). Exploitation on East 81 Slough, where relative stock density of 254-mm and longer yellow perch (RSD-254) was low (RSD-254 = 10), was only 7% during the winter of 2000-01 and much of the total annual mortality (48%) in the population was attributed to natural causes (40%). Conversely, exploitation rate on Pelican Lake, where size structure was dominated by larger fish (RSD-254= 92), was 61% during the winter of 2001-02. Accordingly, mean minimum TL of harvested yellow perch observed in angler creel was higher on Pelican Lake (265 mm) than on East 81 Slough (225 mm). Anglers on East 81 Slough demonstrated size-selective harvest of yellow perch, harvesting higher proportions of older, larger perch than were observed in trap-net samples. High percentages of anglers on both lakes reported preferences for catching or harvesting fewer, larger yellow perch rather than catching or harvesting more, but smaller perch. Size structure of yellow perch probably affected observed values of minimum acceptable harvest size and was likely responsible for variation in exploitation rate between lakes. Gill-net sampling precision and population dynamics were evaluated for yellow perch populations in six South Dakota lakes. Time at full recruitment to gill nets (age 2 or age 3) differed among lakes due to variation in yellow perch growth rates. Gill- net sampling precision was frequently low (CV > 40%) and in most cases substantial increases in sampling effort would be required to increase confidence levels for detecting changes in mean total catch per unit effort (CPUE). Commonly-used analyses to describe growth (von Bertalanffy models) and total annual mortality (catch curves) had limited utility in describing yellow perch population dynamics in these populations due to observed trends in mean total lengths at age and CPUE data. Total annual mortality estimates for the six populations typically exceeded 45%. Populations exhibiting slow growth typically exhibited relatively consistent recruitment, low size structure, and higher observed maximum ages than fast-growing populations. With the exception of Waubay Lake, yellow perch populations in the six lakes I examined displayed relatively limited potential for production of fish > 254 mm. Potential reductions in yellow perch daily creel limits were evaluated using existing creel data available for eight South Dakota lakes. Generally, reductions in daily creel limits from 25 fish per day would have limited effectiveness in reducing harvest of yellow perch unless reductions were severe (5 fish per day). A 10-fish daily creel limit on Waubay Lake was predicted to reduce harvest at levels > 25% and may have utility in managing yellow perch in this lake. Beverton-Holt equilibrium yield modeling indicated that 229- and 254-mm length limits would reduce yield and harvest of yellow perch in Waubay Lake while increasing the number of perch reaching 254 mm in the population. Despite increases in the number of yellow perch reaching 254 mm, observed maximum age and growth trends resulted in minimal length- limit related improvements (< 28%) in the average size of perch harvested by anglers. Based on these observations, length limits would have little utility in managing the yellow perch fishery on Waubay Lake due to the harvest-oriented nature of the fishery.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Yellow perch -- South Dakota
Fish populations -- South Dakota
Glacial lakes -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (page 129-153)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2003 Daniel A. Isermann. All rights reserved.