The reestablishment of self-sustaining stocks of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in the lower four Great Lakes has been substantially impeded because planted fish do not produce enough progeny that survive and reproduce. The causes for this failure are unknown, but many historical spawning sites of lake trout have been degraded by human activities and can no longer produce viable swim-up fry. In this study, we used side-scan sonar and an underwater video camera to survey, map, and evaluate the sustainability of one reef in each of the five Great Lakes for lake trout spawning and fry production. At four of the reef sites, we found good-to-excellent substrate for spawning and fry production by the shallow-water strains of lake trout that are now being planted. These substrates were in water 6-22 m deep and were composed largely of rounded or angular rubble and cobble. Interstitial spaces in these substrates were 20 cm or deeper and would protect naturally spawned eggs and fry from predators, ice scour, and buffeting by waves and currents. Subsequent studies of egg survival by other researchers confirmed our evaluation that the best substrates at two of these sites still have the potential to produce viable swim-up fry.
Additional publication details
Surficial substrates and bathymetry of five historical lake trout spawning reefs in near-shore waters of the Great Lakes