Abstract Trophic indicators were used to compare two Malian freshwater reservoirs whose main differences are based on their different fishing pressures. Data were collected from a scientific survey of small-scale fishery landings conducted in 2002/2003. The trophic levels of fish species caught by artisanal fisheries are estimated from observations of scientific fishing or from the metabase Fishbase. Important differences exist in the trophic structure of both reservoirs. In Selingue (with high fishing pressure), very few top predators are found in the catches while the low trophic level fishes increase in total catches. In Manantali (with low fishing pressure), the top predators contribute twice as much to catches compared to Selingue. Hence, the mean trophic level of catches in Selingue (2.80) is lower than in Manantali (2.97). When comparing these results with those of study made in 1994/1995, it clearly appears that the effects of the fishing pressure in Selingue are obvious through a decrease of 0.12 in the mean trophic level while in Manantali this mean level has increased by 0.33 due to a recent strategic targeting of top predators. Trophic spectra seem to be relevant tools to characterize exploited fish communities from multi-specific and multi-gear small-scale fisheries catch data.