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The size of hatchery-reared brown trout (Salmo trutta) and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), 1 yr after release in Lake Ontario, declined when the stocking of salmonines was increased between 1978 and 1984. The principal prey species, alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), failed to show the expected, predator-induced downturn in abundance. Instead, rainbow smelt remained moderately abundant and alewives very abundant. During this period, alewife year-classes were small, survival of yearling alewives was poor, growth of young-of-the-year of both alewives and rainbow smelt was slow (growth of most older alewives ceased), and rainbow smelt numbers gradually increased (the much larger alewife population presumably buffered older rainbow smelt from predation by large piscivores). When adult alewife numbers were halved by a winter die-off, the subsequent year-class of alewives was large and growth of brown trout during their first year in the lake increased. This suggested a causal relation between abundance of young alewives and brown trout growth. In the first year coho salmon were at liberty, their growth was related to abundance of young-of-the-year alewives; in their second year it was related to the abundance of yearling alewives and the condition of adult alewives. We hypothesize that abundant adult alewives suppressed production of young-of-the-year fish (necessary prey for salmonines during their first year in the lake) through competition for limited zooplankton production, and thus impeded the transfer of energy from the lowest trophic level to young salmonine predators.
Additional Publication Details
Prey fish dynamics and salmonine predator growth in Lake Ontario, 1978-84
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences