College of ACES
College News

Longer catch-and-release time leaves largemouth bass nests more vulnerable to predators

Published April 7, 2014
bass underwater

URBANA, Ill. – During spawning season, a largemouth bass male attentively guards its nest. Recent research at the University of Illinois found that catch-and-release angling could give bass predators the perfect opportunity to consume the young. In fact, the time spent away from the nest during a catch-and-release event and the subsequent exhaustion it creates for the male are critical to the survival of the embryos, particularly in lakes with high densities of brood predators.

“One of the main conclusions of the study was that in a lake where there are very few brood predators, when you angle a male away from his nest and then immediately release him, the chance of a negative impact is less, but if the nest is located in a part of a lake where there is a high density of brood predators, once the male is removed, predators get into the nest very quickly,” said U of I fisheries research scientist Jeff Stein. “On average, the time it took brood predators to begin eating bass young was less than five minutes in cases where the nest was located near schools of brood predators.”

Stein said that the message to anglers is, if they are catch-and-release angling for nesting bass early in the year, it’s best if they can get the fish back into the water as soon as possible, especially if the lake is known to have a high density of largemouth bass predators such as bluegill, pumpkinseed, or rock bass.

In the study, 70 nests were located within nine lakes in southeastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, which were closed to public angling during the data collection period. All of the lakes contained natural largemouth bass populations, with varying numbers of known brood predators. Stein snorkeled in shallow water wearing a neoprene wetsuit that provided buoyancy to float for hours at a time. He observed the nests and assigned scores representing the number of brood predators and the quality of parental care demonstrated by the largemouth bass dads. (The female leaves immediately after laying the eggs and has absolutely no part in parental care of the nest. The males defend the nests from predators.)

Nesting males were captured and held in a live well for 15 minutes, then released – but took another 30 minutes on average to return to their nests. Stein put that return time into perspective by comparing catch-and-release practices for both professional and amateur anglers. “A pro who isn’t interested in anything about the fish other than that he caught it will rip that fish over in about 15 seconds into the boat and spend only about another minute or two with the fish before releasing it back into the water,” Stein said. “Casual recreational anglers may be afraid they’re going to lose the catch and so may play it a little more, which exhausts the fish more. After the fish is caught, it might accidentally flop around on the floor of the boat for a while. They may put it in a live well if they’re thinking of keeping it or until they get the camera out. Five minutes or more elapse.”

Stein said that by the time the fish is finally released back into the water it’s tired and stressed. He compared the fishes’ exhaustion to a runner in a marathon being told to hold his breath at the finish line.

When “dads” are released back into the water, they don’t head right back to the nest. “They’re disoriented so they go to the bottom to sit and recover for a while and get their heart rate back to stasis,” Stein said. “The fish is saying, ‘Okay, I lived through whatever that was. Now where is my nest?’ and by the time it actually gets back to the nest it has been gone from it 30 minutes.”

Because bass typically spawn only one time per year when the water temperature reaches a critical threshold, it’s doubtful that the male will spawn a second time if it loses its eggs to a predator. This means that, in places that have a high density of brood predators, catch-and-release, particularly during spawning season, could result in a reduction of the bass population.

The bass population is also affected by how many broods are actually captured each year. “In a lake with 100 bass nests but very little angling pressure and not many predators, one, two, or three nests where the male gets captured and the nest is raided won’t make a big difference in the overall population flow because most of the first-year young are going to survive,” Stein said. “But in a smaller lake with lots of bluegill and lots of anglers throughout the spawning season—that scenario could affect the next generation of bass.”

Fishing spawning beds for bass is a known strategy among knowledgeable anglers, Stein said “During spawning season, the males are highly aggressive and the females are big because they’re full of eggs ready to spawn. Some jurisdictions, some provinces, and states in North America disallow any fishing for bass or require catch-and-release angling during the spawning season,” he said. “Illinois has a regulation for streams that prohibits harvesting smallmouth bass from April 1 to June 15 to encourage a successful spawn.”

“I could envision a future where regionally or in specific lakes in which we know some bass populations may be at risk because of the presence of large numbers of brood predators and angling pressure is really high, that management would track these ingredients that can have a high negative impact on the bass population,” Stein said. He added that in some areas of Ontario, for example, bass fishing doesn’t open until the fourth weekend in June.

“We definitely know that the success rate of largemouth bass nests when parental care is interrupted is lower,” Stein said. “During catch-and-release angling, the male may become so physically taxed that it doesn’t continue parental care. The big question we’re still looking at is how it affects the whole population.”

Stein is a senior research scientist with the Illinois State Natural History Survey, which is part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, and is an adjunct professor in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

“Quantifying brood predation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) associated with catch-and-release angling of nesting males,” co-authored by David Philipp, was published in a recent issue of Environmental Biology of Fishes. Partial funding was provided by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Project F-69-R and by the Ron Ward Scholarship from the Champaign-Urbana Bass Club.



ACES Students Invited to A Conversation with Stu April 11

Published April 4, 2014
Stuart Levenick

You are invited to attend "A Conversation with Stu" on Friday, April 11, 2014, 4-4:30pm, in room W-115 Turner Hall. Bring your questions!!

Stuart Levenick is group president of Caterpillar Inc. in Peoria, IL. After earning his B.S. in forestry at Illinois, he joined Caterpillar as a sales and marketing development representative. He has since worked in numerous marketing and management positions in the U.S., Canada, Russia, Asia Pacific, and Japan. See his bio at

Poster (PDF)

News Source:

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

Get ready for short sleeves and swimsuits--summer's coming!

Published April 3, 2014
woman running

URBANA, Ill. - The snow has finally melted and temperatures are on the rise. That can only mean one thing. Beach season is just around the corner, and people are sweating it out and pounding the pavement to achieve a summer-ready physique.

“But only 20 percent of U.S. adults are meeting both the aerobic and muscle-strengthening components of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity recommendations,” said Mekenzie L. Riley, a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator.

According to Riley, those physical activity guidelines recommend that adults get at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking, or 1¼ hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging or a combination of walking and running.

“The guidelines also recommend that adults do muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups, sit-ups, or activities using resistance bands or weights. These activities should involve all major muscle groups and should be done on two or more days per week,” she said. 

Only 50 percent of adults are getting the recommended amount of aerobic activity, and just 30 percent are engaging in the recommended muscle-strengthening activity, she noted.

Although only 20 percent of adults are meeting both aerobic and strength-building activity recommendations, it’s a positive development that half of U.S. adults are meeting the aerobic guidelines and a third are meeting the muscle-strengthening recommendations, Riley said.

“If you are meeting these requirements, the benefits to your long-term health are indisputable. You are doing a really good thing. However, that’s not the only piece to the physical fitness puzzle. The American College of Sports Medicine now says that a sedentary lifestyle is a health risk factor, regardless of whether you’re getting the proper amount of exercise,” she added.

“You might be pulling double sessions in the gym, but if you spend another five-plus hours sitting in front of a computer screen, television, or driving in a car, you’re still endangering your health,” she said.

Research shows that sedentary behavior—sitting for long periods of time—is distinct from physical activity and has been shown to be a health risk in itself. Meeting the guidelines for physical activity doesn’t make up for a sedentary lifestyle, she said.

This is a problem because adults are sedentary for 60 percent or more of their waking hours. The risks of sitting all day are the ones you’d expect: increased chance of heart disease and diabetes, a higher body mass index, and increased waist circumference. So what can we do? Get up and move!

“If you break up long periods of sitting still by getting up and moving for a few minutes, you may be able to partly counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. So walk to your co-workers office instead of sending an email, take a lap around the building, walk to the coffee shop down the street on your lunch break, or park farther away from the door. Find creative ways to move a little extra when you have the chance. It might be a life saver!” she said.


Evaluating bulls prior to turnout

Published April 3, 2014
bull test

URBANA, Ill. - High prices are providing an incentive to cattlemen to expand the nation’s drought-riddled cow herd. With fewer cows in the nation’s breeding herd, it is important to make each cow count, said a University of Illinois Extension beef specialist.

Travis Meteer explained that management strategies play a major role in ensuring that cows re-breed.

“The most obvious management strategy a cattle producer can deploy is conducting a breeding soundness exam (BSE) on bulls. All bulls that will be used in a breeding season need to be tested. Without a breeding soundness exam, producers are taking a huge risk,” he said.

The Extension specialist added that breeding soundness exams are low cost and provide a great return on the investment. Bulls that are infertile or have poor fertility will fail to settle cows.

“Evaluating bulls is crucial to making sure that cows get bred. A BSE should be conducted by a veterinarian each year prior to turnout. Environmental factors, age, and injury can all affect a bull’s fertility from year to year,” Meteer said.

With a particularly harsh winter of 2014, checking bulls for frostbite damage, which can cause short-term and long-term infertility, is important.

Bulls should be evaluated for mobility, body condition score (BCS), age, and other functional traits. Bulls need to possess a free-moving gate with no signs of lameness. Hoof shape, joints, and locomotion speed also need to be appraised. Long toes, cracked hooves, or signs of foot rot are characteristics that can cause lameness and subsequent failure of that bull to service cows. Swollen, fluid-filled joints may be signs of structural incorrectness or injury that may affect the number of cows a bull can cover.

“Simply looking at the speed and comfort of a bull during locomotion can be valuable in determining his functionality as a walking herdsire,” Meteer said.

Bulls need to be in good body condition with an ideal BCS of 5 or 6. Bulls that are too thin or too fat can pose problems. Bulls generally lose weight during a breeding season because they are focused on breeding and traveling to service ready-to-breed cows so it is important to ensure bulls are in good condition. On the other hand, bulls that are too fat may be out of shape and more fatigued when servicing cows. Over-fat bulls are also prone to infertility during hot weather as fat around the scrotum limits cooling and thermoregulation.

Bulls should also be transitioned nutritionally. “Feeding bulls a balanced diet in a drylot situation where feed is close and readily available is far different than a big pasture full of cows needing bred. Lush spring grass is not nearly as nutrient dense as hay and grain offered in the drylot setting,” Meteer explained. “Thus, transitioning bulls to pasture is important in making sure they don’t ‘melt’ or ‘crash’ when they go to pasture to breed. I suggest feeding a low-protein, high-energy supplement at 2 to 4 pounds per head per day. This is very important if you are using yearling bulls. These bulls will have higher nutrient requirements than mature bulls because they are still growing.”

Once bulls are in the pasture or breeding pen, they need to be monitored for libido. Bulls need to be checked for activity and to make sure they are servicing cows in heat. Sunup and dusk are good times to check to see if bulls are breeding cows.

“Open cows are a major drain on profitability of a cow/calf operation. There is no doubt that reproduction is a sensitive mechanism and is vulnerable to several factors. However, evaluating bulls to ensure they are capable of servicing cows is the starting point to making sure your breeding season is successful,” Meteer said.

Food pantry clients struggle to afford diapers, detergent, other non-food items

Published April 2, 2014
toothbrush and toothpaste

URBANA, Ill. - Many food-insecure families also struggle to afford basic non-food household goods, such as personal care, household, and baby-care products, according to a new University of Illinois study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

“These families often make trade-offs with other living expenses and employ coping strategies in an effort to secure such household items as toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, or disposable diapers. What’s more, nearly three in four low-income families have cut back on food in the past year in order to afford these essential non-food items,” said Barbara H. Fiese, director of the U of I’s Family Resiliency Center and Pampered Chef Endowed Chair.

The researchers found that over 33 million people used food pantries to supplement their basic food needs, with one in three low-income families experiencing difficulty in affording basic household items. Of these families, 82 percent live in households with low or very low food security, meaning they cannot afford enough food to feed their family.

In interviews of food pantry clients, the researchers used the Red Cross disaster relief list to help clients identify the personal household products they found most essential to daily living, then asked them about the consequences of going without these products and the strategies they used to secure them. Thirty-two percent of the households were headed by single parents, and most households lived on less than $800 a month, she said.

“These parents really struggled to get personal hygiene and household cleaning products, sometimes even giving up prescription medication to afford these items. They may have resorted to taking toilet paper from public places. Other coping strategies include watering down products to make them last longer, substituting one product for another, not paying bills, and simply going without,” she added.

Three themes recurred in the interviews: the battle to retain personal respect, being a good parent, and keeping the family healthy, Fiese said.

“Parents didn’t want their children to be thought of as dirty or unclean because they didn’t have access to laundry detergent or toothbrushes and toothpaste. They also feared being judged for not taking care of their kids and worried that they might be turned in for neglect,” she added.

She emphasized that being unable to attend to basic needs such as oral health care, providing clean clothes, and keeping a clean home is a health risk for children.

For families with infants and toddlers, adequate sources of diapers were important. Although some food pantries had diapers, participants reported that they sometimes had to travel from pantry to pantry to get enough to meet their needs.

Laundry detergent was another pricey item with many families saying that they go without or only do laundry occasionally. “We can only afford to do laundry once a month,” said one respondent.

Although participants said they might borrow from others to make ends meet at the end of the month, they found it embarrassing, and those feelings took a toll on them. “It gets overwhelming and stressful, and it’s degrading,” one mother said.

The results of the interviews used in this east-central Illinois study have been used to design a larger, nationally representative phone survey as well as to help food banks assess their clients’ concerns regarding household product needs.

“The interviews shed light on the often complicated decisions that families have to make in balancing the need to feed their children, purchase household supplies for healthy living, and pay for medical expenses. Clearly these are not easy decisions, and the choices can have serious consequences for multiple members of the household,” she added.

Balancing household needs: The non-food needs of food pantry clients and their implications for program planning was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. Fiese, the FRC’s Brenda Davis Koester, and Elaine Waxman of Feeding America co-authored the article.

These interviews contributed to the national study, In Short Supply: American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials, made possible by Proctor & Gamble, a long-standing donor and Feeding America partner. Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization.

The University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center, housed in the U of I’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, is dedicated to advancing knowledge and practices that strengthen families’ abilities to meet life’s challenges and thrive.