Trends in Rainbow Trout recruitment, abundance, survival, and growth during a boom-and-bust cycle in a tailwater fishery

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
By: , and 



Data from a large-scale mark-recapture study was used in an open population model to determine the cause for long-term trends in growth and abundance of a Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss population in the tailwater of Glen Canyon Dam, AZ. Reduced growth affected multiple life stages and processes causing negative feedbacks that regulated the abundance of the population, including: higher mortality of larger fish; lower rates of recruitment (young of year) in years when growth was reduced; and lower rates of sexual maturation the following year. High and steady flows during spring and summer of 2011 resulted in very large recruitment event. The population declined 10-fold by 2016 due a combination of lower recruitment and reduced survival of larger trout. Survival rates for trout ≥ 225 mm in 2014, 2015, and 2016 were 11%, 21%, and 22% lower than average survival rates between 2012 and 2013, respectively. Abundance at the end of the study would have been three- to five-fold higher had survival rates for larger trout remained at the elevated levels estimated for 2012 and 2013. Growth declined between 2012 and 2014 owing to reduced prey availability, which led to very poor fish condition by fall of 2014 (~0.9-0.95). Poor condition in turn resulted in low survival rates of larger fish during fall of 2014 and winter of 2015, which contributed to the population collapse. In Glen Canyon, large recruitment events driven by high flows can lead to increases in the population that cannot be sustained due to limitations in prey supply. In the absence of being able to regulate prey supply, flows which reduce the probability of large recruitment events can be used to avoid boom-and-bust population cycles. Our study demonstrates that mark-recapture is a very informative approach for understanding the dynamics of tailwater trout populations.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Trends in Rainbow Trout recruitment, abundance, survival, and growth during a boom-and-bust cycle in a tailwater fishery
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1080/00028487.2017.1317663
Volume 146
Issue 5
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 1043
Last page 1057