Cue the theme music, “Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby:
The March 2014 issue of NEBRASKAland magazine just went on-line, Digital NEBRASKAland; there is a short piece there that Nebraska anglers will find of interest. I have blogged before about how unique Nebraska’s sandhill lakes are, and in recent years fisheries research has taught us a lot more about those waters (e.g. “Blinded Me with Science”–February 25, 2013, “Blinded Me with Science”–November 21, 2011 ). In March 2014’s issue of NEBRASKAland, Mark Kaemingk and Dr. Dave Willis report on some more of that research where they specifically looked at the timing of yellow perch and bluegill hatching and competition between those two species in a Nebraska sandhill lake. You can see that story on page 6 of the March issue, “Competition Between Two Favorite Nebraska Panfish?” It will not take you long to read it and even though it is fisheries science, you will be able to understand and learn something from it.
We know that Nebraska’s sandhill lakes are incredibly productive and are capable of supporting very healthy, abundant, and fast-growing populations of several panfish species all in the same lake. However, just because those systems are incredibly productive and can produce enough food to feed several species of panfish, that does not mean there are not interactions between panfish species. Mark and Dave’s report indicates that the timing of yellow perch and bluegill hatching can give a competitive advantage to the earlier-hatching yellow perch early in their lives. However, that does not mean that yellow perch are going to always have the upper hand over bluegills in sandhill lakes; some years late cold spells will “whack” the early-hatching yellow perch and then the competitive advantage swings to the later-hatching bluegills.
As I am always pointing out, fisheries are dynamic and there are a lot of variables beyond our control. Large year-classes of yellow perch may be produced in some years under certain conditions while other years there will be large year-classes of bluegills and in yet other years there may be relatively small year-classes of both species produced. No, there may not be much that fisheries managers can do to control the variability in year-class production, but understanding those mechanisms and interactions does help us realize there are always going to be “ups” and “downs”, good years and bad years.
Let me add a couple of personal notes: Mark Kaemingk now is doing some post-doctoral fisheries research work in New Zealand! Unfortunately, we just lost Dr. Willis a few weeks ago, Dr. Willis.
The next time you stare down a sandhill lake ice hole hoping for a big perch or a big bluegill to bite, ponder the world below the surface of the water and how intricate it is! If you think about that for a moment, you will have a great appreciation for that big perch or big bluegill when you do catch it!