Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



Published in Reviews in Fisheries Science, 4(1): 57- 73 (1996)


Fisheries managers often assess fish populations using catch per unit effort (CPUE), size and age structure, growth, and condition. For many freshwater fishes and common sampling gears, CPUE, size and age structure, and condition are highest in the spring and fall, while growth commonly is fastest during the summer growing season. However, there are exceptions to these general trends, especially in populations with erratic recruitment, growth, or mortality. At the least, CPUE, size and age structure, growth, and condition of fish should be expected to change with season, given the effects of variable recruitment, growth, and mortality. However, if recruitment, growth, and mortality are relatively stable, seasonal changes in sampling data occur due to changes in fish behavior caused by many factors (e.g., changes in temperature, turbidity, food availability, photoperiod, etc.). However, these patterns of change through the seasons should not necessarily be assumed to be the same for all fish species or for species in all habitats or geographic regions. Thus, managers and researchers need to consider the seasonal patterns in sampling patterns for a particular species within a certain habitat in their geographic region when collecting standardized data sets, and when assessing populations and communities.