We assessed density-related changes in growth of walleye Sander vitreus in the ceded territory of northern Wisconsin from 1977 to 1999. We used asymptotic length (Lz), growth rate near t0 (??), and body condition as measures of walleye growth to determine the relationship between growth and density. Among lakes, there was weak evidence of density-dependent growth: adult density explained only 0-6% of the variability in the growth metrics. Within lakes, growth was density dependent. Lz, ??, and body condition of walleyes changing with density for 69, 28, and 62% of the populations examined, respectively. Our results suggest that walleye growth was density dependent within individual lakes. However, growth was not coherently density dependent among lakes, which was possibly due to inherent differences in the productivity, surface area, forage base, landscape position, species composition, and management regime of lakes in the ceded territory. Densities of adult walleyes averaged 8.3 fish/ha and did not change significantly during 1990-1999. Mean Lz and body condition of walleyes were signilicantly higher before 1990 than after 1990, which may indicate an increase in density due to changes in management regimes. The observed growth changes do not appear to be a consequence of the statewide 15-in minimum size limit adopted in 1990 but rather a response to the treaty rights management regime. We conclude that walleye growth has the potential to predict regional-scale adult walleye densities if lake-specific variables are included in a model to account for regional-scale differences among walleye populations and lakes.
Additional publication details
The role of density dependence in growth patterns of ceded territory walleye populations of northern Wisconsin: Effects of changing management regimes