Influence of variable rainbow smelt and gizzard shad abundance on walleye diets and growth

Lake and Reservoir Management
By: , and 



Prey availability influences growth and condition of walleye (Sander vitreus) in large systems. In Lake Oahe, South Dakota, rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) and gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) are primary prey of walleye, but their abundance varies substantially year to year. To evaluate the influence of gizzard shad and rainbow smelt on walleye diets and growth in Lake Oahe, we compared recent estimates of walleye diets and growth in 2008 through 2010 with those from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Walleye diets differed seasonally with increased piscivory in July and October. In 2008, gizzard shad were the dominant prey item of walleye, representing about 60% of the diets by weight; however, by 2009, gizzard shad declined appreciably in the diet (22%) and were completely absent from walleye diets by 2010. Conversely, rainbow smelt abundance represented 12%, 27%, and 90% of walleye diets by weight in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively. Changes in growth corresponded to changes in diets, with the slowest growth occurring when gizzard shad were dominant in the diets and increasing growth every year thereafter. Because gizzard shad are only available during short periods (<3 months) in late summer, walleye can only achieve about 50% of their annual maintenance energy requirements from this prey source. Conversely, rainbow smelt, which are available and consumed year round, provide a continuous energy source that contributes to high growth rates. Nonetheless, when abundant, gizzard shad may provide an important subsidy to Lake Oahe walleye during periods of low rainbow smelt abundance.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Influence of variable rainbow smelt and gizzard shad abundance on walleye diets and growth
Series title Lake and Reservoir Management
DOI 10.1080/10402381.2014.914989
Volume 30
Issue 3
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 10 p.
First page 258
Last page 267