Fisheries managers have often suggested that survival of trout during the winter is a major factor affecting population densities in many stream ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains. In Wyoming, trout population reductions from fall to spring in excess of 90% have been documented in some reservoir tailwaters. Though biologists have surmised that these reductions were the result of either mortality or emigration from some river sections, the specific mechanisms have not been defined and the factors leading to the trout loss are unknown. This is a review of four studies that were conducted or funded between 1991 and 1998 by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to understand the extent of overwinter losses, identify some of the mechanisms leading to those conditions and develop management strategies to help avoid those impacts. Winter studies were conducted on tailwater fisheries in the Green, North Platte, Bighorn and Shoshone rivers to document trout population dynamics, assess physical habitat availability, evaluate trout movement and habitat selection, and understand the relationships between food availability and bioenergetic relationships. Results indicate that winter trout losses are extreme in some years, that trout movement and habitat selection are affected by supercooled flows, and that mortality is probably not directly due to starvation. The combination of physiological impairment with frequently altered habitat availability probably leads to indirect mortality from predators and other factors. Copyright ?? 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Additional publication details
Behavioural and physiological response of trout to winter habitat in tailwaters in Wyoming, USA