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WyoChris

Stunted fish

12 posts in this topic

This may seem like a dumb question to some of you.... but what does "a stunted fish population" mean? I've heard this a lot but not exactly sure what it means?

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im not an expert but what i think of is typically a stunted sunfish population. which i also think of as a lake that has a very high population of sunnies, which in turn results in the lack of food for the high population. this causes them to either die off, or not consume a substantial amount of food to grow. so in short, very high population causes little fish...

im no expert but thats what i think of it as.

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you're on the right track. a body of water that isnt capable of producing larger fish,

too many=lack of forage=slow growing/smaller fish

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"Stunted" populations can also occur in places where angler harvest is high. If anglers keep all fish above 7" the population will be driven to maturity at an earlier stage and smaller size. This leads to lower growth rates since energy that would go toward growth is now going to reproduction.

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mn_bowhunter, Interesting theory! What if the angler harvest is low or 'non-existant'? I'd always been told that if the predator populations are high, the panfish will be large, but few. If the predator populations are low, the panfish will be small, but plentiful (stunted). It goes back to what Burnham and crothmeier stated and as a former keeper of the waters (aquariums), I agree, The fish will grow to the size that their habitat/surroundings will allow. If you put a lone sunnie into a 10 gallon aquarium, he'll only grow so big. Put his brother into a 50 gallon aquarium right beside him, he'll grow to 4-5X the size of his brother. Given the right conditions, an 'aquarist' could potentially grow a MONSTER Sunfish, given the right conditions and a healthy fish from the start. There's a challenge for the Aquarists on FM!! Phred52

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"Stunted" populations can also occur in places where angler harvest is high. If anglers keep all fish above 7" the population will be driven to maturity at an earlier stage and smaller size. This leads to lower growth rates since energy that would go toward growth is now going to reproduction.

Also, if you are keeping all the +7" fish, you are effectively eliminating the genetic pool of fish capable of reaching +7". Thus, you are left with a gene pool capable of only growing 6.9" fish and smaller.

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To Phred52, predators can help to control sunfish populations and also increase size structure to a degree. Largemouth bass are what is found to be most effective for pond management. This is not a rule by any means and there are too many variables to go into. Some of the largest bluegills produced have been in ponds managed for large gills so yeah, it's basically a 10-20 acre aquarium.

To raider4ever, you would not necessarily eliminate the genetic pool. Most of the size structure balance has to do with competition between fish of the same species. I'll use bluegills as an example again as there has been a ton of research on them. The "bulls" or large males that guard nests get eggs in there nests. The largest males are in the center of the colony, and they recieve the most eggs. Smaller males may try to sneak in and fertilize eggs or mimic females to also fertilize eggs. As these large males are eliminated smaller males can take their place on nests and get eggs from females. This drives the fish to mature at a smaller size/younger age. The genetics are essentially the same, they are just responding to a lower number of breeders. When larger males return growth rates increase and it is basically back to normal. You should do a google or youtube search for cuckholdry and sneakers for bluegills. You can see the small males sneak in, its pretty cool.

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MN Bow,

I've heard from my friends at the DNR that the stunted gills are a little different genetically, almost a subspecies. I've been told that there was a study done on pike as well that shows the same thing.

That makes sense after talking to someone in the DNR. They took some scale samples of pike on Tonka and the growth rates were all over the board. Sex didn't seem to matter nor did the section of the lake the samples were taken from.

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Food the the source of growth. Too may fish for the food + lack of space to grow=small fish. Pounds of fish per acre of water. Upper red, is a good example. Competiton for food.

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I wasn't trying to say that gentics couldn't be different for stunted fish. I know that they can be different genetically. I meant that for the short term, like 5-6 generations you could get them to go back to normal. This is what I've read in many journal articles about bluegills.

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I've been thinking on the genetic size/relationship issues a lot. In the TC Metro, we seem to only have small sunfish in all types of lake and even the rivers. I am convinced that generations of harvest have altered the gene pool. I would like the DNR to investigate the benefits of breeding a population of genetically superior gills. Maybe reclaim a lake and introduce large gills from outside our metro, protect that lake from fishing, and use these gills to stock lakes that have the right characteristics for promoting good growth. They may want to do some trapping/netting to remove inferior gills first, and drop these fish in drainages and winterkill lakes for kids fishing opportunities. I'd love to be able to give my daughter one good sunfish experience a year without driving an hour plus.

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