White sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in North America and are the focus of an intense catch-and-release (C&R) fishery; the effects are largely unknown. We assessed the effect of fight and handling time, water temperature, river discharge rate, and fish size on physiological and reflex impairment responses of wild white sturgeon to angling. Sixty of these fish were tagged with acoustic transmitters to assess survival and post-release behaviour. Survival was high (100%). Water temperature and discharge influenced post-capture blood physiology. Specifically, lactate, chloride, and cortisol concentrations were elevated in individuals fought longer, and captured at higher water temperatures and river discharge. Cortisol was affected by fish size, with lower concentrations found in larger individuals. Only lactate and chloride were positively related to reflex impairment scores. Post-release movements were correlated with physiological state, fight characteristics and the environment. Specifically, higher blood lactate and chloride and those with longer fight times moved shorter distances after release. Contrastingly, higher levels of circulating glucose and potassium, as well as larger fish captured during periods of high discharge moved longer distances. Sturgeon tended to move shorter distances and at slower rates when reflex impairment was high, although reflex impairment in general did not explain a significant proportion of the variance in any movement metric. Our results show intriguing variance in the physiological and behavioural response of individual white sturgeon to C&R angling, with some degree of environmental dependence, and highlights the importance of understanding drivers of such variation when managing fisheries.

Acoustic telemetry, Post-release behaviour, Post-release survival, Reflex impairment, Stress physiology, White sturgeon
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Department of Biology

McLean, M.F. (Montana F.), Litvak, M.K. (Matthew K.), Stoddard, E.M. (Erin M.), Cooke, S.J, Patterson, D.A. (David A.), Hinch, S.G. (Scott G.), … Crossin, G.T. (Glenn T.). (2020). Linking environmental factors with reflex action mortality predictors, physiological stress, and post-release movement behaviour to evaluate the response of white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus Richardson, 1836) to catch-and-release angling. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 240. doi:10.1016/j.cbpa.2019.110618