We use aging techniques, ploidy analysis, and otolith microchemistry to assess whether four grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella captured from the Sandusky River, Ohio were the result of natural reproduction within the Lake Erie Basin. All four fish were of age 1 +. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that these fish were not aquaculture-reared and that they were most likely the result of successful reproduction in the Sandusky River. First, at least two of the fish were diploid; diploid grass carp cannot legally be released in the Great Lakes Basin. Second, strontium:calcium (Sr:Ca) ratios were elevated in all four grass carp from the Sandusky River, with elevated Sr:Ca ratios throughout the otolith transect, compared to grass carp from Missouri and Arkansas ponds. This reflects the high Sr:Ca ratio of the Sandusky River, and indicates that these fish lived in a high-strontium environment throughout their entire lives. Third, Sandusky River fish were higher in Sr:Ca ratio variability than fish from ponds, reflecting the high but spatially and temporally variable strontium concentrations of southwestern Lake Erie tributaries, and not the stable environment of pond aquaculture. Fourth, Sr:Ca ratios in the grass carp from the Sandusky River were lower in their 2011 growth increment (a high water year) than the 2012 growth increment (a low water year), reflecting the observed inverse relationship between discharge and strontium concentration in these rivers. We conclude that these four grass carp captured from the Sandusky River are most likely the result of natural reproduction within the Lake Erie Basin.
Additional publication details
First evidence of grass carp recruitment in the Great Lakes Basin