We examine evidence that biotic factors, particularly predation, may be limiting early survival of wild lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) juveniles in many areas of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes contain numerous potential predators of lake trout eggs and fry, some of which are recent invaders, and most of which were probably absent when lake trout most recently re-invaded the Great Lakes after the last ice age. Simple quantitative models of predation suggest that plausible assumptions about prey densities, predator feeding rates, and duration of exposure of predator to prey can lead to very high estimates of predation mortality, in some instances approaching 100%. Indirect evidence from inter-Great Lake comparisons and inland lake examples also suggest that biotic factors may impede successful lake trout colonization. Our synthesis of the evidence leads to recommendations for research to better define field feeding rates of lake trout egg and fry predators and comparative studies of densities of potential egg and fry predators on lake trout spawning reefs. Management options should be designed to provide useful information as well as achieve short-term goals. From a management standpoint we recommend that: newly constructed lake trout reefs should be placed well away from concentrations of potential predators; offshore spawning reefs should be stocked; salmonine stocking, nutrient abatement, and commercial harvest of alewives should all be considered as options to enhance survival of young lake trout; hatchery lake trout should not be stocked at sites where wild lake trout are showing signs of recovery; and exotic species expansions or introductions must be curtailed to maintain or improve on our recent successes in lake trout rehabilitation.
Additional publication details
Limitations to lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) rehabilitation in the Great Lakes imposed by biotic interactions occurring at early life stages