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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

David W. Willis


Otoliths (asteriscus) have been validated as an accurate aging technique for common carp Cyprinus carpio. However, common carp otoliths can be difficult to age and require a time-expensive process that involves sacrifice of fish. Therefore, I analyzed aging precision among four alternative structures compared to otoliths for 139 common carp collected from five eastern South Dakota lakes. All common carp were collected using day-time electrofishing and each carp was assigned an identification number, measured to the nearest millimeter total length, and aging structures were removed. Scales, vertebrae, opercles, pectoral fin rays, and asteriscus otoliths were aged using methods similar to those recommended by previous researchers. Average percent error for each structure compared to otoliths was 6.8% for scales, 15.4% for vertebrae, 9.9% for opercles, and 1.2% for pectoral fin rays. Ages from pectoral fin ray sections through age 13 were nearly as precise as otoliths (lowest average percent error) compared to all other structures. In most cases, pectoral fin ray ages tracked otolith ages, providing similar age assignments. Thus, the pectoral fin ray provided a precise, economical, and non-lethal alternative to assess common carp age structure aging. Accuracy of ages from pectoral fin rays will still need to be determined for common carp. Understanding recruitment patterns for common carp is essential for understanding carp population dynamics. Therefore, I evaluated common carp age structure to assess recruitment patterns then correlation analysis was used to determine similarities in recruitment among populations from 18 eastern South Dakota glacial lakes. Relationships between abiotic factors and recruitment patterns were then analyzed. Previous research has indicated that warm summer water temperatures and increased water levels may have positive effects on common carp recruitment. Further, increased wind/wave action and severe winters can negatively affect common carp year-class strength. Therefore, I hypothesized that specific weather patterns may affect common carp survival during early life stages and thus subsequent recruitment. I examined three candidate models using the information-theoretic approach to determine factors that affect common carp recruitment: 1) mean temperature, total precipitation, and wind speed during the hatching period (May through July), 2) winter severity (cumulative days below freezing from October through April), and 3) mean temperature, total precipitation, and wind speed during the open-water period (April through October). Based on correlation analysis, common carp recruitment patterns were similar among my 18 study lakes. Temperature, precipitation, and wind speed during open-water season provided the most supported model using an information-theoretic approach, while winter severity was least supported. Common carp produced strong year classes when temperatures were warm, precipitation was high and wind was low regardless of winter severity during these critical time periods. My results suggest that common carp recruitment in eastern South Dakota lakes seems to function on a broad spatial synchronous scale influenced by some combination of environmental factors (i.e., “Moran effect”). Year-class strength is determined during early life history in some fishes, and factors affecting survival during early life history often are size dependent. Therefore, to more thoroughly understand common carp early life history and thus eventual recruitment patterns, I tracked cohorts from two common carp populations from hatch through the next spring and examined hatch timing, daily growth, cohort composition, and subsequent size structure and relative abundance of age-1 carp. Hatching in 2004 occurred from May 17 through July 3 and May 9 through June 14 in Brant and Campbell lakes, respectively. Age-0 common carp in Brant Lake grew approximately 0.96 mm/day (N=78; SE=0.02). Further, hatch date was negatively related to total length (r = -0.84, df = 77, P < 0.001) indicating that earlier-hatched common carp attained greater total lengths at time of capture than their later-hatched counterparts. Campbell Lake age-0 common carp grew 1.03 mm /day (N=79; SE=0.01) and also exhibited a negative relationship between hatch date and total length (r = -0.87, df = 78, P <0.001). Further, hatch date and daily growth rate explained greater than 90% of the variation in total length attained for age-0 common carp collected in Campbell (R2=0.96; P < 0.001) and Brant lakes (R2=0.93; P < 0.001). Age-1 common carp length-frequency distributions from both lakes were comprised only of the larger cohort members present the previous fall (Brant Ksa=3.26, P<0.001; Campbell Ksa=2.25, P<0.001). Therefore, common carp recruitment appeared to be size dependent in these two South Dakota glacial lakes.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Carp -- South Dakota
Fish populations -- South Dakota
Glacial lakes -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (page 50-58)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2006 Quiton E. Phelps. All rights reserved.