Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New Mexico
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

New Mexico Project

Natal Source and the Influence of Environmental Bottlenecks on Largemouth Bass Recruitment in Elephant Butte Reservoir

July 2016 - June 2019


Participating Agencies

  • New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Alex Vaisvil holding the mother of largemouth bass in Elephant Butte Reservoir.

Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is the most sought after sportfish in New Mexico. However, population abundance of largemouth bass in Elephant Butte Reservoir remains well below the statewide target objective of 20-40 fish/h. As such, Largemouth Bass fingerlings have been stocked into the Reservoir to augment the bass population. We were tasked to retrospectively characterize the contribution of stocked versus natal (hatched in the reservoir) Largemouth Bass to assess if stocking practices were successful. We used a non-lethal collection of dorsal spines in conjunction with strontium isotopes in the spines to characterize origin of fish and learned that stocking was successful. In addition, we identified rate of water level change within the reservoir affected spawning of the bass population. We partnered with our State cooperator (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish) to conduct the research. Our results will be used to make informed management decisions on the appropriate timing of stocking fingerling Largemouth Bass. Our results will also be used by water managers to time the delivery of water throughout the middle Rio Grande Basin to increase fish habitat for spawning in Elephant Butte Reservoir.

Technical Publications Publication Date
Vaisvil, A. and C.A. Caldwell. 2017. Effects of reservoir management and environmental variables on reproduction and habitat of largemouth bass in Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico January 2018
Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
Vaisvil, A. Natal source and influence of environmental stressors on the timing and persistence of Largemouth Bass in Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico. Master of Science, New Mexico State University. June 2019