Five-year evaluation of habitat remediation in Thunder Bay, Lake Huron: Comparison of constructed reef characteristics that attract spawning lake trout

Fisheries Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Degradation of aquatic habitats has motivated construction and research on the use of artificial reefs to enhance production of fish populations. However, reefs are often poorly planned, reef design characteristics are not evaluated, and reef assessments are short-term. We constructed 29 reefs in Thunder Bay, Lake Huron, in 2010 and 2011 to mitigate for degradation of a putative lake trout spawning reef. Reefs were designed to evaluate lake trout preferences for height, orientation, and size, and were compared with two degraded natural reefs and a high-quality natural reef (East Reef). Eggs and fry were sampled on each reef for five years post-construction, and movements of 40 tagged lake trout were tracked during three spawning seasons using acoustic telemetry. Numbers of adults and spawning on the constructed reefs were initially low, but increased significantly over the five years, while remaining consistent on East Reef. Adult density, egg deposition, and fry catch were not related to reef height or orientation of the constructed reefs, but were related to reef size and adjacency to East Reef. Adult lake trout visited and spawned on all except the smallest constructed reefs. Of the metrics used to evaluate the reefs, acoustic telemetry produced the most valuable and consistent data, including fine-scale examination of lake trout movements relative to individual reefs. Telemetry data, supplemented with diver observations, identified several previously unknown natural spawning sites, including the high-use portions of East Reef. Reef construction has increased the capacity for fry production in Thunder Bay without apparently decreasing the use of the natural reef. Results of this project emphasize the importance of multi-year reef assessment, use of multiple assessment methods, and comparison of reef characteristics when developing artificial reef projects. Specific guidelines for construction of reefs focused on enhancing lake trout spawning are suggested.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Five-year evaluation of habitat remediation in Thunder Bay, Lake Huron: Comparison of constructed reef characteristics that attract spawning lake trout
Series title Fisheries Research
DOI 10.1016/j.fishres.2016.06.012
Volume 183
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 275
Last page 286
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Huron, Thunder Bay
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N