• biochronology;
  • climate change;
  • dendrochronology;
  • drought;
  • growth increment;
  • sclerochronology;
  • river ecology;
  • reservoirs

Abstract –  The role of climate variability in the ecology of freshwater fishes is of increasing interest. However, there are relatively few tools available for examining how freshwater fish populations respond to climate variations. Here, I apply tree-ring techniques to incremental growth patterns in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides Lacepède) otoliths to explore relationships between annual bass growth and various climate metrics in the southeastern USA. Among six rivers and seven reservoirs in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, strong correlations between annual bass growth indices and climate were detected (73 of 96 possible correlations were significant at α < 0.05). All but two ecosystems exhibited the following pattern: annual bass growth was significantly negatively correlated with annual precipitation metrics, and significantly positively correlated with annual temperature metrics. Based on multiple regressions, climate, on average, accounted for ∼50% of variability (R2) in bass growth, although these values ranged from 28% to 65% depending on the ecosystem. Furthermore, every population showed significant correlations with at least one of the following global climate factors: El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the Arctic Oscillation (AO). Largemouth bass growth in the southeast is apparently influenced by climate in major ways. Fish ecologists and managers in the region should be aware of the strong links between annual climate conditions and annual fish growth.