Effects of annual flow refime on redbreast sunfish and bluegill growth in a southeastern Coastal Plain stream
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Recent interest in restoring the connectivity of rivers and their floodplains has highlighted our lack of knowledge about the effects of flooding and drought on fishes. Three statistical models for testing the effects of annual flow regime on fish growth, estimated from sagittal otolith annuli, were compared. Redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus) and bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), were electroshocked and angled from Ichawaynochaway Creek, a fifth order black-water stream on the Gulf Coastal Plain. Annual differences in growth were detected for age 1 bluegill and ages 1-3 redbreast sunfish, but two of the statistical models were confounded by significant interactions with fish age. In the third model, both species exhibited enhanced growth during low flow conditions at age 1 while age 2 redbreast sunfish growth correlated positively with high flow variables. Instream flow should be managed for a variety of annual flow regimes to allow satisfactory growth of all age classes.