Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


J. Wesley Neal

Committee Member

Leandro E. Miranda

Committee Member

Michael E. Colvin

Committee Member

Scott A. Rush

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Forest Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


In most Puerto Rico reservoirs, Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides are typically fast-growing with distributions composed of distinct year-classes. Cerrillos Reservoir, however, displays the classic characteristics of a crowded bass population common in temperate lakes and ponds with fish stockpiling into a single modal distribution of slow-growing fish. This developed shortly after stocking in 1997, with the population quickly expanding to carrying capacity. Consequently, relative weight declined from above 100 to about 80 and the population was mostly composed of fish <=350 mm. A protected slot limit (356-508 mm) was implemented; however, limited effort and angler attitudes towards harvest of small bass prevented the success of this regulation, which was subsequently removed. In this dissertation, I examined the efficacy of using targeted management harvests for improving growth, size structure, and condition of Largemouth Bass in Cerrillos Reservoir. I used bioenergetics modeling to simulate the effects of targeted harvests. I predicted annual consumption of stock and quality-sized Largemouth Bass and used these estimates to model the effects of population reduction on consumption and growth of remaining bass. To validate the model, experimental removals of Largemouth Bass from the crowded size classes (200-380 mm) were conducted in 2012 and 2013. In these two years, I removed 20% and 22% of the total biomass, respectively. Following the experimental removals, mean condition of Largemouth Bass increased from 83 to 90, and increases were observed in all Largemouth Bass size categories. The reduction in predator abundance resulted in increased prey availability and smaller size structure of sunfish (Lepomis spp.) and tilapia (Coptodon and Oreochromis spp.) populations. I concluded that reducing Largemouth Bass abundance in Cerrillos Reservoir can move population dynamics toward desired management outcomes, but these actions must continue indefinitely to achieve success and sustainability. Annual management harvests are feasible but impractical, so I recommend increasing angler harvest and implementing management efforts designed to limit recruitment (e.g., shoreline rotenone application) to achieve management goals.