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Movement patterns of adult pike (Esox lucius L.) in a Belgian lowland river

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articleResearchpeer-review

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  • Universiteit Gent

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Original languageEnglish
JournalEcology of freshwater fish
Volume23
Pages (from-to)373-382
Number of pages10
ISSN0906-6691
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Abstract

Northern pike, Esox lucius, needs different habitats to survive and reproduce and thus depends on the availability and accessibility of these habitats. To efficiently manage pike, information is needed on its spatial and temporal patterns of migration. In this study, we investigated the occurrence of adult pike migration and which environmental variables influenced migration. From December 2010, we followed 15 pike for 1 year by use of radio telemetry in the River Yser, a typical lowland river characterised by anthropogenic impacts such as artificial embankments. Pike migrated most in February and March, which could indicate they frequented spawning habitat in this period. Four environmental variables significantly affected pike migration, ranging from the location where pike were observed (strongest effect), over water temperature and flow to diel water temperature change (weakest effect). The relation between migration and the location where pike were observed could demonstrate that pike preferred specific regions in the river. Increasing water temperature triggered migration for both sexes, and males started migrating at lower temperatures than females, which suggests that males start migrating earlier. This was the only substantial difference observed between male and female pike migration. The results suggest that migration was inhibited by high flow, as no migration was observed at high flow. River managers can use this information to efficiently manage their pike populations, for example, by removing or temporarily opening hydraulic structures like valves, weirs and sluices.
This may facilitate access to suitable habitats at moments pike needs these habitats to fulfil its life cycle.

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