The rehabilitation of extirpated lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain has been hindered by various biological and physiological impediments. Efforts to restore a lake trout fishery to Lake Champlain include hatchery stocking and sea lamprey control. Despite these management actions, there is little evidence of recruitment of naturally-produced fish in annual fall assessments. Spawning occurs at multiple sites lake-wide in Lake Champlain, with extremely high egg and fry densities, yet sampling for juvenile lake trout has only yielded fin-clipped fish. To investigate this recruitment bottleneck, we assessed predation pressure by epi-benthic fish on emergent fry on two spawning reefs and the subsequent survival and dispersal of fry in potential nursery areas. Epi-benthic predators were sampled with 2-h gillnet sets at two small, shallow sites in Lake Champlain throughout the 24-h cycle, with an emphasis on dusk and dawn hours. In total, we documented seven different species that had consumed fry, with consumption rates from 1 to 17 fry per stomach. Rock bass and yellow perch dominated the near-shore fish community and were the most common fry predators. Predator presence and consumption of fry was highest between 19:00 and 07:00. Predators only consumed fry when fry relative abundance was above a threshold of 1 fry trap-1 day-1. We used an otter trawl to sample for post-emergent fry adjacent to the reef, but did not capture any age-0 lake trout. Due to the observed predation pressure by multiple littoral, species on shallow spawning reefs, lake trout restoration may be more successful at deep, offshore sites.
Journal of Great Lakes Research
Vol. 35 • No. 2
Vol. 35 • No. 2