Sustained efforts to restore naturally reproducing populations through the stocking of marked juvenile Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush have occurred since the 1960s but have been largely unsuccessful in achieving that goal. Julian’s Reef in southwestern Lake Michigan has been a targeted Lake Trout rehabilitation site since 1985 and was designated a first-priority site in a revised management strategy for Lake Trout rehabilitation in 2011. We evaluated progress toward rehabilitation objectives for spawning Lake Trout at Julian’s Reef and compared that progress to unstocked Waukegan Reef nearby in light of a recent increase to approximately 50% unmarked adults at both sites, as detected by annual fall spawning assessments. We observed significant progress toward meeting the rehabilitation objectives for adult Lake Trout in southern Lake Michigan. The spawning populations at Julian’s Reef and Waukegan Reef did not differ in relative abundance, sex ratio, age structure, or spawner sources (stocking location; clipped or unclipped) except that the sex ratio at Waukegan Reef during the assessment period favored female spawners. These results suggest that the adult Lake Trout population is strong enough to permit natural recruitment in southern Lake Michigan, warranting the need to identify the source of natural reproduction so as to fully evaluate factors related to rehabilitation success. We propose that management agencies should consider investigating other unstocked sites where Lake Trout may be spawning and should revise their rehabilitation plans to include actions that could limit detrimental impacts on naturally reproducing populations where they exist.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law