Behavioural variation in Eurasian perch populations with respect to relative catchability

Härkönen, L., Hyvärinen, P., Niemelä, P.T. & Vainikka, A.   Acta Ethologica 2015.

 Animal personalities, i.e. consistent individual differences in behaviour, are currently of high interest among behavioural and evolutionary biologists. The topic has received increasing attention also in fisheries science because selective harvesting of certain behavioural types might impose fishing-induced selection on personality. Here, we ice-fished wild Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis) from three native populations and investigated whether differences in relative catchability would explain behavioural differences observed in experimental conditions. We inferred relative catchability differences indirectly by fishing each location first with generally inefficient artificial bait and then by more efficient natural bait. The captured, individually tagged fish were tested in groups for their exploration tendency, activity and boldness under authentic predation risk in semi-natural stream channels. Fish that were easily captured first with artificial bait expressed fast exploration and acute activity, whereas the fish captured with natural bait showed less active and explorative behaviour. Differences in relative catchability did not explain variation in boldness or body size. In conclusion, we found that (1) Eurasian perch differing in relative catchability differ in certain behavioural traits, (2) fast explorers are more common among fish that get easily caught compared to fish that are more difficult to catch, (3) relative catchability explains more behavioural variation in a novel environment than in a familiar one and (4) selectivity of recreational angling on fish behaviour may depend on applied angling method and the effort spent on each location.