We documented the nesting chronology, nest site selection and nest success of smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu in an upstream (4th order) and downstream (5th order) reach of Baron Fork Creek, Oklahoma. Males started nesting in mid-Apr. when water temperatures increased to 16.9 C upstream, and in late-Apr. when temperatures increased to 16.2 C downstream. Streamflows were low (77% upstream to 82% downstream of mean Apr. streamflow, and 12 and 18% of meanjun. streamflow; 47 and 55 y of record), and decreased throughout the spawning period. Larger males nested first upstream, as has been observed in other populations, but not downstream. Upstream, progeny in 62 of 153 nests developed to swim-up stage. Downstream, progeny in 31 of 73 nests developed to swim-up. Nesting densities upstream (147/km) and downstream (100/km) were both higher than any densities previously reported. Males selected nest sites with intermediate water depths, low water velocity and near cover, behavior that is typical of smallmouth bass. Documented nest failures resulted from human disturbance, angling, and longear sunfish predation. Logistic exposure models showed that water velocity at the nest was negatively related and length of the guarding male was positively related to nest success upstream. Male length and number of degree days were both positively related to nest success downstream. Our results, and those of other studies, suggest that biological factors account for most nest failures during benign (stable, low flow) streamflow conditions, whereas nest failures attributed to substrate mobility or nest abandonment dominate when harsh streamflow conditions (spring floods) coincide with the spawning season.
Additional publication details
Spawning chronology, nest site selection and nest success of smallmouth bass during benign streamflow conditions