Six Fathom Bank, an offshore reef in the central region of Lake Huron's main basin, was stocked annually with hatchery-reared lake trout Salvelinus namaycush during 1985-1998, and nearby Yankee Reef was stocked with hatchery-reared lake trout in 1992, 1997, and annually during 1999-2001. We conducted gill-net surveys during spring and fall to evaluate performances of each of the various strains of lake trout, as well as the performance of the entire lake trout population (all strains pooled), on these two offshore reefs during 1992-2000. Criteria to evaluate performance included the proportion of 'wild' fish within the population, spawner density, adult survival, growth, maturity, and wounding rate by sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus. Although naturally reproduced age-0 lake trout fry were caught on Six Fathom Bank and Yankee Reef, wild lake trout did not recruit to the adult population to any detectable degree. The density of spawning lake trout on Six Fathom Bank (>100 fish/305 m of gill net) during 1995-1998 appeared to be sufficiently high to initiate a self-sustaining population. However, annual mortality estimates for all lake trout strains pooled from catch curve analyses ranged from 0.48 to 0.62, well exceeding the target level of 0.40 suggested for lake trout rehabilitation. Annual mortality rate for the Seneca Lake strain (0.34) was significantly lower than that for the Superior-Marquette (0.69) and Lewis Lake (0.69) strains. This disparity in survival among strains was probably attributable to the lower sea-lamprey-induced mortality experienced by the Seneca Lake strain. The relatively high mortality experienced by adult lake trout partly contributed to the lack of successful natural recruitment to the adult population on these offshore reefs, but other factors were probably also involved. We recommend that both stocking of the Seneca Lake strain and enhanced efforts to reduce sea lamprey abundance in Lake Huron be continued.
Additional publication details
Status of lake trout rehabilitation on Six Fathom Bank and Yankee Reef in Lake Huron