We review existing information on lake trout spawning habitat, which might indicate whether habitat is now a limiting factor in lake trout reproductive success. Lake trout spawning habitat quality is defined by the presence or absence of olfactory cues for homing, reef location with respect to the shoreline, water depth, proximity to nursery areas, reef size, contour, substrate size and shape, depth of interstitial spaces, water temperature at spawning time, water quality in interstitial spaces, and the presence of egg and fry predators. Data on factors which attracted native spawners to spawning reefs are lacking, due to the absence of historic data on egg deposition. No direct evidence of egg deposition has been collected from sites deeper than 18 m. Interstitial space and, therefore, substrate size and shape, appear to be critical for both site selection by adults and protection of eggs and fry. Water quality is clearly important for egg incubation, but the critical parameters which define water quality have not yet been well determined in the field. Exposure to wave energy, dictated in part by reef location, may maintain high water quality but may also damage or dislodge eggs. The importance of olfactory cues, water temperature, and proximity to nursery habitat to spawning trout is unclear. Limited data suggest that egg and fry predators, particularly exotic species, may critically affect fry production and survival. Although availability of physical spawning habitat is probably not limiting lake trout reproduction, changes in water quality and species composition may negatively affect early life stages. This review of habitat factors that affect early life stages of lake trout suggests several priorities for research and management.
Additional publication details
Lake trout spawning habitat in the Great Lakes u a review of current knowledge