Age structure, total annual mortality, and mortality caps (maximum mortality thresholds established by managers) were investigated for walleye Sander vitreus (formerly Stizostedion vitreum) populations sampled from eight Kansas reservoirs during 1991-1999. We assessed age structure by examining the relative frequency of different ages in the population; total annual mortality of age-2 and older walleyes was estimated by use of a weighted catch curve. To evaluate the utility of mortality caps, we modeled threshold values of mortality by varying growth rates and management objectives. Estimated mortality thresholds were then compared with observed growth and mortality rates. The maximum age of walleyes varied from 5 to 11 years across reservoirs. Age structure was dominated (???72%) by walleyes age 3 and younger in all reservoirs, corresponding to ages that were not yet vulnerable to harvest. Total annual mortality rates varied from 40.7% to 59.5% across reservoirs and averaged 51.1% overall (SE = 2.3). Analysis of mortality caps indicated that a management objective of 500 mm for the mean length of walleyes harvested by anglers was realistic for all reservoirs with a 457-mm minimum length limit but not for those with a 381-mm minimum length limit. For a 500-mm mean length objective to be realized for reservoirs with a 381-mm length limit, managers must either reduce mortality rates (e.g., through restrictive harvest regulations) or increase growth of walleyes. When the assumed objective was to maintain the mean length of harvested walleyes at current levels, the observed annual mortality rates were below the mortality cap for all reservoirs except one. Mortality caps also provided insight on management objectives expressed in terms of proportional stock density (PSD). Results indicated that a PSD objective of 20-40 was realistic for most reservoirs. This study provides important walleye mortality information that can be used for monitoring or for inclusion into population models; these results can also be combined with those of other studies to investigate large-scale differences in walleye mortality. Our analysis illustrates the utility of mortality caps for monitoring walleye populations and for establishing realistic management goals.
Additional publication details
Age structure and mortality of walleyes in Kansas reservoirs: Use of mortality caps to establish realistic management objectives