The Role of individual Learning Experience and Capability in Determining Angling Vulnerability in Largemouth Bass

Michael Louison, Jeffrey Stein, Cory Suski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Learning is essential for animals to navigate human-induced threats. An example of this is found in fish targeted by recreational anglers, where survival depends on successfully avoiding capture. While relationships between individual behavioral traits and angling vulnerability have been studied, cognitive traits have been ignored within this context. To fill this gap, we conducted a pair of studies. In the first, 60 largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides were assessed for learning performance on an active-avoidance task before being subjected to angling. In the second, angling-naïve largemouth bass were stocked into ponds containing either previously angled or naïve conspecifics to determine if naïve fish could socially learn to avoid capture from experienced individuals. Results from the first study showed fish that learned the avoidance task more quickly were more likely to be caught. Results from the second study revealed no effect of social learning on capture likelihood, however the results did indicate that largemouth bass are able to use prior experience with lures to avoid novel lures, unless the novel lure is highly dissimilar from the lure the fish had previously experienced. These results are ecologically important, as the selective capture of individuals based on their cognitive traits may evolutionarily alter exploited populations, causing major changes in behavior and fitness. Furthermore, managers interested in maintaining quality fisheries and angler satisfaction should take into account the role that learning can play in the catchability of fish, and consider regulations that may prevent the selective harvest of highly catchable fish from taking place.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMidwest Fish and Wildlife Conference 2020
StatePublished - 2020


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