Restoration stocking of hatchery-reared lake trout Salvelinus namaycush has occurred in Lake Ontario since 1973. In U.S. waters, fish stocked through 1990 survived well and built a large adult population. Survival of yearlings stocked from shore declined during 1990–1995, and adult numbers fell during 1998–2005. Offshore stocking of lake trout was initiated in the late 1990s in response to its successful mitigation of predation losses to double-crested cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus and the results of earlier studies that suggested it would enhance survival in some cases. The current study was designed to test the relative effectiveness of three stocking methods at a time when poststocking survival for lake trout was quite low and losses due to fish predators was a suspected factor. The stocking methods tested during 2000–2002 included May offshore, May onshore, and June onshore. Visual observations during nearshore stockings and hydroacoustic observations of offshore stockings indicated that release methods were not a direct cause of fish mortality. Experimental stockings were replicated for 3 years at one site in the southwest and for 2 years at one site in the southeast. Offshore releases used a landing craft to transport hatchery trucks from 3 to 6 km offshore out to 55–60-m-deep water. For the southwest site, offshore stocking significantly enhanced poststocking survival. Among the three methods, survival ratios were 1.74 : 1.00 : 1.02 (May offshore : May onshore : June onshore). Although not statistically significant owing to the small samples, the trends were similar for the southeast site, with survival ratios of 1.67 : 1.00 : 0.72. Consistent trends across years and sites indicated that offshore stocking of yearling lake trout during 2000–2002 provided nearly a twofold enhancement in survival; however, this increase does not appear to be great enough to achieve the 12-fold enhancement necessary to return population abundance to restoration targets.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of offshore stocking of Lake Trout in Lake Ontario