For the past three years, our research group has monitored the behaviour and activity of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) year-round at the Warner Lake Ecological Observatory (WLEO) in eastern Ontario. The core of the WLEO is a novel whole-lake acoustic telemetry array that can provide real-time information on animal behaviour. Data has been gathered from approximately 20 fish per year implanted with acoustic transmitters with a burst rate of between 2 and 60 seconds, enabling their 3-dimensional positioning with sub-meter accuracy. Research into under-ice winter behaviour has found that largemouth bass form large aggregations in discrete areas of the lake. Within these aggregations, predictable sub groups of animals form daily, and individuals can travel up to 1 km per day under the ice. During springtime, the fish move from the winter aggregation to warmer areas of the lake in preparation for spawning. While some bass spawn, other fish travel extensively throughout the lake, most likely in search of food, mates, or suitable spawning habitat. In an experiment to determine the effects of angling on nest guarding male bass, fish angled from their nest, livewell contained for an hour, air exposed, and released 100 m from their nest showed considerable delay in returning to the nest and exhibited impaired parental care for days afterwards. Future research will focus on investigating basic questions on bass ecology and behaviour (e.g., responses to weather conditions, ontogenetic shifts in activity), as well as the effect of various anthropogenic activities (e.g., recreational boating, shoreline development, angling tournaments). We are also moving to a broader community level approach where we will be able to monitor predator-prey relations and interspecific variation in behaviour.
Angling experiments and an acoustic telemetry system within Warner Lake