Movement of Largemouth Bass


Kevin Dockendorf of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission wanted to understand more about the movement of Largemouth Bass between Lake Mattamuskeet and access points of surrounding canals.

With assistance from USFWS – Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, USGS and North Carolina State University, Dockendorf and his team launched a project to document movements of Largemouth Bass between main lake and canal habitats and relate that to environmental factors that could elicit movement, such as seasonal water levels.

 “This study will provide valuable information regarding optimal water levels for Largemouth Bass in main lake habitats,” said Dockendorf. “At the same time, we hope to gain insights into environmental characteristics that elicit movement between the habitat types.”

In addition, Dockendorf noted that spring movements could also provide valuable information about critical spawning habitats for Largemouth Bass which could then help managers protect and enhance these areas.

The project is utilizing VEMCO acoustic telemetry technology to tag and track individual Largemouth Bass, using passive and active tracking. Thirty-one VEMCO passive acoustic VR2W receivers have been deployed in an array or “gate” at canal entrances as well as locations within the canals that will characterize whether a fish is leaving or entering that area.

In the spring of 2017, a total of 42 Largemouth Bass were collected from east and west sides of the lake and from each canal complex. All fish were surgically implanted with VEMCO V9 acoustic transmitters, which are estimated to ping until February 2019.

Active tracking events will occur monthly to characterize location of those fish that are not observed on the passive receivers. Passive receivers will be visited once a month to download data, confirm receiver position, and perform any maintenance.

“The data we collected between May and December 2017 has yielded over 145,000 detections from at least 29 different tagged Largemouth Bass at Lake Mattamuskeet,” said Dockendorf. “We will continue to download data and assess movements between and within the lake and canals throughout 2018.”

Results will be shared with fisheries professionals at American Fisheries Society meetings, with cooperating agencies, and with the public. A final report will be completed by December 31, 2019.

“We extend a huge thanks to the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program for their generous support in funding this project,” said Dockendorf. “We also extend our since appreciation to Keith Spafford of VEMCO for the immense support he provided during the early stages of setting up our study.”

More information on Federal Aid in Sport Restoration and their “Cycle of Success” program can be found here.

Photo 1: Nevin Spohn, NCWRC Conservation Technician, and Jen Atherton, NCWRC Fisheries Technician, release fish after tag implantation surgery and recovery.

Photo 2: Kevin Dockendorf, NCWRC Fisheries Research Coordinator, surgically implants an acoustic tag into the abdominal cavity of a Largemouth Bass.

Diagram 1: VEMCO VR2W deployments in Lake Mattamuskeet and surrounding canals.

(Photo 1 and Diagram 1 courtesy of Kevin Dockendorf. Photo 2 courtesy of Chad Thomas, NCWRC.)

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