We assessed temporal dynamics and variation among species and age-classes in the diets of age 0 and age 1 piscivorous fish species in Spirit Lake, Iowa, USA during 1997 and 1998. Species included walleye Stizostedion vitreum, yellow perch Perca flavescens, smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieui, largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides, black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus and white bass Morone chrysops. Thirty taxa were identified in diets, including 12 species of fish. We found dramatic differences in diets among species, among age-classes within species and over time. Walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and white bass were piscivorous at age 0. Black crappie began piscivory at age 1. Yellow perch also began piscivory at age 1, but fish were a very small fraction of age-1 diets. The primary temporal pattern, seen in several species and age- classes, was an increase in piscivory from spring to fall. This pattern was due to the lack of small, age-0 prey fish in spring. Although some patterns were evident, the taxonomic composition of the diets of all species was highly variable over time, making generalizations difficult. A surprising result was the absence of yellow perch in the diet of age-0 walleye, despite their abundance in Spirit Lake and prominence in diets of age-1 walleye and other age 1-piscivores. Age-0 yellow perch were consistently too large to be eaten by age-0 piscivores, which preyed primarily on invertebrates and smaller fish such as johnny darters Etheostoma nigrum and age 0 bluegill Lepomis macrochirus. This finding suggests that predator-prey interactions and resulting population dynamics may be quite different in Spirit Lake than in other systems dominated by walleye and yellow perch.
Additional publication details
Diet dynamics of the juvenile piscivorous fish community in Spirit Lake, Iowa, USA, 1997-1998