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Estimating flow rates to optimize winter habitat for centrarchid fish in Mississippi River (USA) backwaters

Johnson, B. L., Knights, B. C., Barko, J. W., Gaugush, R. F., Soballe, D. M., and James, W. F., 1998, Estimating flow rates to optimize winter habitat for centrarchid fish in Mississippi River (USA) backwaters: Regulated Rivers Research & Management, v. 14, no. 6, p. 499-510.


The backwaters of large rivers provide winter refuge for many riverine fish, but they often exhibit low dissolved oxygen levels due to high biological oxygen demand and low flows. Introducing water from the main channel can increase oxygen levels in backwaters, but can also increase current velocity and reduce temperature during winter, which may reduce habitat suitability for fish. In 1993, culverts were installed to introduce flow to the Finger Lakes, a system of six backwater lakes on the Mississippi River, about 160 km downstream from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The goal was to improve habitat for bluegills and black crappies during winter by providing dissolved oxygen concentrations > 3 mg/L, current velocities < 1 cm/s, and temperatures > 1 degrees C. To achieve these conditions, we used data on lake volume and oxygen demand to estimate the minimum flow required to maintain 3 mg/L of dissolved oxygen in each lake. Estimated flows ranged from 0.02 to 0.14 m(3)/s among lakes. Data gathered in winter 1994 after the culverts were opened, indicated that the estimated flows met habitat goals, but that thermal stratification and lake morphometry can reduce the volume of optimal habitat created. This article is a U.S. Government publication and is in the public domain in the United States.

Keywords: Mississippi River, backwaters, winter, dissolved oxygen, temperature, current velocity, flow, bluegill, black crappie, restoration, oxygen, bass

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