Hicks, B. J., Bell, D. G., Powrie, W., & Robinson, F. (2016). Boat electrofishing survey of fish abundance in the Ohau Channel, Rotorua, in 2015. ERI report No. 86. Client report prepared for Bay of Plenty Regional Council. Hamilton, New Zealand: Environmental Research Institute, Faculty of Science and Engineering, The University of Waikato.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12468
The aim of the survey was to provide on-going monitoring of the fish communities and abundance by boat electrofishing in the Ohau Channel, especially fish species that are taonga to Maori (eels, goldfish, and koura). In the current study, we present the findings from the ninth year of sampling (2015) and a summary of previous surveys. We used the University of Waikato's 4.5 m-long, aluminium-hulled electrofishing boat to catch a total of total of 1,198 fish and koura (18.9 kg) at 13 sites on 2 December 2015, which comprised 2,671 lineal m and 10,684 m² in area. Koura (freshwater crayfish) and 6 fish species were present, with common bully the most abundant species (up to 45.5 fish 100 m⁻² at the site 6, edge habitat). Goldfish (up to 4.85 100 m⁻²) was the next most abundant species, with most goldfish at sites 7 and 12-13 in and around the side channel. Rainbow trout densities were up to 0.28 fish 100 m⁻². Mean bully density (11.41 fish 100 m⁻²) was much higher than for smelt (0.29 fish 100 m⁻²). Koura had a patchy distribution; only 3 individuals were caught at one site. Comparing catches over the 9 years of sampling, the mean abundance of common bullies in 2015 was consistent with densities in most post-wall years (after 2007), but lower than in 2007 before wall closure (ANOVA P = 0.001). The cause of fluctuating bully abundance is not known, and was not accounted for by changes in water clarity expressed as black disc distance (BDD), water temperature, or water conductivity. Poor water clarity can reduce the efficiency of electrofishing, but high BDD did not correspond with high common bully densities. In 2015, smelt abundance had recovered somewhat from the low catch in 2014. Goldfish biomass increased initially (2009-2010) because of targeted fishing in the excavated side branch (site 11), which has dense macrophytes and offers good habitat for goldfish. The continued rise in density from 2012 on, however, suggests a real increase in goldfish numbers. In 2012 and 2013 shortfin eels were caught, but no eels were caught in 2014 and only a single longfin eel was caught in 2015. Analysis of fish densities before and after wall closure is hampered by the single data point before closure. However, we now have 9 years of post-wall data, and comparison of means suggest that the number of bullies has been lower since 2007. An obvious cause could be interruption of bully migration into the Ohau Channel from Lake Rotoiti by the wall. This suggests that the bully population in the Ohau Channel before wall construction and closure was a mixture of fish from lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti, and that recruitment from Rotoiti is now restricted. This hypothesis is testable with otolith microchemistry.
Environmental Research Institute, Faculty of Science and Engineering, The University of Waikato
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