Date of this Version
North American Journal of Fisheries Management (2020).
Alteration of river systems around the world has created novel environments that have been fragmented, homogenized, or transformed from their natural state, thus posing challenges for understanding how fish populations function. The Missouri River has undergone significant alteration through reservoir construction and channelization. Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus and Flathead Catfish Pylodictis olivaris both reside in various fragmented sections of the river, and there is a substantial gap in knowledge of how catfishes synchronously function in this modified system. From 2009 to 2018, we assessed catfishes with baited hoop nets and low-frequency electrofishing among four different areas: upper and lower unchannelized segments and upper and lower channelized segments. Differences in population demographics and dynamics occurred for both species among segments. Both the highest and lowest relative abundances for Channel Catfish occurred in channelized segments, and Flathead Catfish relative abundance was lowest in both unchannelized segments. Subadult growth rates for both catfish species were greater in channelized segments. Channel Catfish mortality was highest in channelized segments, which was consistent with the maximum ages found in channelized (age 9) versus unchannelized (age 15) segments. High-flow events in 2010 and 2011 led to an increase in recruitment, but populations declined in subsequent years. This long-term assessment revealed spatial and temporal differences in population dynamics among varying levels of anthropogenic alteration. Our study illustrates how river modification and extreme climatological events may impact and structure catfish populations. These data provide a basis for assessing catfish throughout the Missouri River system and offer insight into how catfish populations in other altered large-river systems might function.