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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 66(1)

Use of underwater video to assess freshwater fish populations in dense submersed aquatic vegetation

Kyle L. Wilson A C D, Micheal S. Allen A, Robert N. M. Ahrens A and Michael D. Netherland B

A University of Florida, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program, 7922 NW 71st St., Gainesville, FL 32653, USA.
B US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, 7922 NW 71st Street Gainesville, FL 32653, USA.
C Present address: University of Calgary, Department of Biological Sciences, 2500 University Drive N. W., Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada.
D Corresponding author. Email: wilsok@ucalgary.ca

Marine and Freshwater Research 66(1) 10-22 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13230
Submitted: 27 May 2013  Accepted: 17 March 2014   Published: 29 October 2014

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Underwater video cameras (UVC) provide a non-lethal technique to sample fish in dense submersed aquatic vegetation. Fish often inhabit densely vegetated areas, but deficiencies of most sampling gears bias relative abundance estimates that inform fisheries management. This study developed methods using UVC to estimate relative abundance in dense vegetation using three experimental ponds covered with surface-matted hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) stocked at different densities of Lepomis spp. and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). We conducted UVC point counts over 13 weeks to measure relative fish abundance and occurrence from video analysis. Ponds were then drained to obtain true fish densities. In total, fish were detected in 55% of all counts and juvenile and adult Lepomis spp. and largemouth bass were enumerated. End-of-season true fish densities ranged across ponds (from 52 to 37 000 fish ha–1). Additionally, pond 2’s true density changed substantially from 370 to 12 300 fish ha–1. True population size was accurately reflected in differences in estimated relative abundances obtained from fish counts, as in pond 2 where mean fish counts increased from 0.10 in week 1 to 2.33 by week 13. Underwater video accurately and precisely quantified relative abundance at naturally-occurring fish densities, but this success was reduced at low densities.

Additional keywords: complex habitats, fish sampling, Hydrilla verticillata, invasive aquatic plants, largemouth bass, sunfish, video cameras.


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