Date of this Version
Published in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 143 (2014), pp 845–855.
Throughout their range, Yellow Perch Perca flavescens are an important ecological and economic component of many fisheries, but they often exhibit highly variable recruitment. Much research effort has been devoted to better understanding the mechanisms responsible for these erratic recruitment patterns, yet few studies have examined this process at the detail necessary to reveal complex interactions that may exist across multiple early life stages. Our current understanding of the early life recruitment patterns of Yellow Perch suggests a strong abiotic component. Using existing information, we developed three working hypotheses to examine Yellow Perch recruitment at two larval stages (5–14 and 15–24 d old) and to further identify the overarching mechanisms (abiotic versus biotic) related to Yellow Perch recruitment in 332-ha Pelican Lake, Nebraska, during 2004–2012. Larval Yellow Perch growth and mortality were largely regulated by hatching date, temperature, and zooplankton availability. The growth of young larval Yellow Perch (5–14 d old) was positively related to temperature and hatch date; that of old larval perch (15–24 d old) was positively related to water temperature and postlarval age-0 (≤25 mm TL) Yellow Perch density but negatively related to the available preferred zooplankton biomass. Mortality was inversely related to total zooplankton biomass and water temperature. Our results describe a model with two potential Yellow Perch recruitment bottlenecks, one immediately posthatch that is regulated by hatch date and temperature and another during the older larval stage that is regulated by temperature and zooplankton.