Utilizing Radio Telemetry to Examine Habitat Use of Black Bass and Desert Sucker Throughout the Year in the Wilderness Tributaries to the Verde River, Arizona
Conserving the natural condition of wilderness areas, including riparian areas and their associated fish communities, requires a clear understanding of the critical habitat needs of native species. Monitoring the summer base flow habitat use of fishes is an important, yet an incomplete view of habitat use. Fish can use different habitats during different seasons, and perhaps during night and day. Furthermore, fish can migrate, and documentation of their movement is important to identify needed connectivity in stream reaches. We are using radiotelemetry to document fish movement, a technique that had not been used yet in these systems. We are focusing on nonnative Black Bass Micropterus spp. and native Desert Sucker Catostomus clarkii habitat use and movements in Wet Beaver Creek and West Clear Creek, which are major tributaries to the Verde River. Each stream is partially contained within wilderness areas. We captured 20-30 fish of each species in each creek and implanted them with radio transmitters having a life of one year. After initial telemetry tag installation, fish’s positions are being monitored monthly during a four-day period over one year. At the same time, habitat availability data is being collected in each stream using standard instream flow analysis techniques. This study will allow identification of fish habitat use outside of baseflow conditions and make possible collection of additional habitat use data during baseflow conditions. Fish monitoring started February 2022. This project will result in a thesis, a report, and a publication.