Establishing a stock of mature, hatchery-reared fish is necessary to restore a self-sustaining population of lake trout Salvelinus namaycush in Lake Ontario. Stocking fish off shore rather than near shore to reduce predation on these fish by large lake trout or piscivorous birds may enhance survival of hatchery-reared fish and accelerate establishment of a population of adults. Results of an earlier study did not support routinely stocking fish off shore by helicopter in Lake Ontario, but stresses associated with helicopter stocking suggested another method of transporting fish off shore might enhance survival. I conducted this study to determine whether stocking lake trout off shore by barge would enhance first-year survival. Two lots of yearling lake trout were stocked at each of four locations in Lake Ontario in May 1992. One lot was stocked from shore, and an identical lot was transported by barge 3.4-10.4 km off shore of nearshore locations and stocked in water 46-52 m deep. Fish were recovered during trawl, gill-net, and creel surveys in 1992-1996. First-year survival of lake trout stocked off shore tended to be better than that of fish stocked near shore. Predation by double-crested cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus likely affected survival of fish stocked near shore at two locations, 7 and 37 km, respectively from a nesting colony of 5,443 pairs of double-crested cormorants. Predation by large lake trout remains a viable hypothesis, which explains, at least partially, lower survival of lake trout stocked near shore at two other locations. Stocking lake trout off shore of traditional nearshore stocking sites likely will enhance first-year survival of hatchery-reared fish and promote accumulation of an adult population, especially for those occassions where nearshore stocking locations are near nesting colonies of double-crested cormorants.
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Survival of hatchery-reared lake trout stocked near shore and off shore in Lake Ontario