Exploitation of burbot Lota lota in the Wind River drainage, Wyoming
Lewandoski, Sean Alois.
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Regionally important recreational fisheries exist for burbot (Lota lota) in the Wind River drainage of Wyoming; however, burbot populations in the region may not be stable and exploitation could be limiting these populations. We addressed this hypothesis by estimating exploitation from tagging data. Bias in our exploitation estimates was minimized by using a multistate capture-recapture model that accounted for incomplete angler reporting and tag loss. We determined that exploitation varied from 0.02-0.32 (95% CI: 0.00-0.67) in the study lakes. Burbot populations are suspected to be vulnerable to exploitation due to elevated density-dependent catchability caused by burbot aggregating behavior during the fishery; therefore, fishery resilience assuming different levels of density-dependent catchability was investigated using demographic parameters from our tagging study and the literature. Fisheries with low initial exploitation (0.02-0.11) were resilient in all simulation scenarios, whereas the resilience of fisheries with intermediate exploitation depended on the assumed level of inverse density-dependent catchability. Based on these results, the importance of exploitation as a limiting factor on burbot populations in the region is variable and, for some populations, instability in population abundance is due to population stressors other than exploitation.