We developed indices of lake trout Salvelinus namaycush status in the main basin of Lake Huron (1973-2010) to understand increases in the relative abundance of wild year-classes during 1995-2010. Sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus wounds per 100 lake trout declined from 23.63 in 2000 to 5.86-10.64 in 2002-2010. The average age-7 lake trout catch per effort per recruitment (CPE/R; fish•305mof gill net-1•million stocked yearlings-1) increased from 0.56 for the 1973-1990 year-classes to 0.92 for the 1991-2001 year-classes. Total CPE (fish/305 m of gill net) declined from 16.4 fish in 1996 to 4.1 fish in 2010, but the percentage of age-5 and younger lake trout steadily decreased from more than 70% before 1996 to less than 10% by 2009. The modal age in gill-net catches increased from age 5 before 1996 to age 7 by 2005. The average adult CPE increased from 2.8 fish/305 m of gill net during 1978-1995 to 5.34 fish/305 m of gill net during 1996-2010. The 1995-2010 year-classes of wild fish weremore abundant than previous year-classes and were associated with the relatively high adult abundance during 1996-2010. Until the 2002 year-class, there was no decline in age-7 CPE/R; until 2008, there was no decline in adult CPE. Low survival of the 2002 and 2003 year-classes of stocked fish was related to the event of alewife Alosa pseudoharengus population collapse in 2003-2004. Lake trout in the main basin of Lake Huron are undergoing a transition from a hatchery stock to a wild stock, accompanied by an increased uncertainty in delayed recruitment. Future management should pay more attention to the protection of wild recruitment and the abundance of the spawning stock.
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Lake trout status in the main basin of Lake Huron, 1973-2010