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Fertilized eggs from lake trout Salvelinus namaycush were placed in artificial turf incubators and deployed on Devils Island Shoal, Lake Superior, in an attempt to reestablish a spawning population on this once important spawning area. Efficacy was measured by the changes in catch rates, age composition, and origin of adult lake trout returning to the shoal in the fall in subsequent years. The abundance of lake trout spawners without fin clips, which implies that these fish hatched in the lake, increased throughout the sampling period, whereas the abundance of hatchery-reared fish (indicated by one or more fin clips) stocked for restoration purposes remained low. Year-class-specific stock-recruitment analysis suggested that the recruitment of unclipped spawners was related to the number of eggs planted in previous years rather than to spawning by the few adult lake trout visiting the reef. Increases in adult fish at Devils Island Shoal were independent of trends at adjacent sites, where unclipped spawner abundances remained low. Enhanced survival to hatch and apparent site imprinting of young lake trout make this technique a viable alternative to stocking fingerling and yearling lake trout to reestablish spawning populations on specific sites in the Great Lakes.
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Reestablishing a spawning population of lake trout in Lake Superior with fertilized eggs in artificial turf incubators