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Are hatchery-reared Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout effective predators on juvenile native fish?

October 1, 2018

Hatchery‐reared Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss and Brown Trout Salmo trutta are typically fed exclusively on commercially prepared pelleted feeds and have no experience catching or consuming live fish at the time of stocking. Despite this lack of predation experience, it is commonly assumed that stocked Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout will adversely impact native fish populations by preying upon juvenile native fish. We evaluated the relative predation effectiveness of wild‐caught Rainbow Trout (210–389 mm TL) and Brown Trout (185–313 mm TL) compared with hatchery‐reared Rainbow Trout (198–321 mm TL) and Brown Trout (196–290 mm TL). We used Bonytail Gila elegans(60–85 mm TL), Humpback Chub Gila cypha (24–59 mm TL), and Roundtail Chub Gila robusta (40–65 mm TL) as prey in overnight predation trials conducted in the laboratory from 2013 to 2016. After 14 d in a captive setting, wild Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout consumed >70% of prey in trials with no cover, while hatchery‐reared fish consumed <30% of prey. In addition, we evaluated if the predation ability of hatchery fish would improve over time by feeding them Fathead Minnows Pimephales promelas, rather than pelleted feed, for up to 30 d. Predation success of Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout increased by an average of 28% and 21%, respectively, after 14 d of eating exclusively fish. Rainbow Trout tested after 30 d of eating fish increased in their ability to catch and eat small prey by an average of 29%. The predation effectiveness of hatchery‐reared fish appears to improve with experience eating live fish. Although stocking Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout does increase the number of predators present in natural systems, the relative predation threat posed by hatchery‐reared fish may be less than that of wild fish, especially in locations where stocked fish do not persist. Lack of experience in catching fish and the effects of captive rearing practices and environments on both physiology and behavior all likely contribute to reduced predation effectiveness of hatchery Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout.

Publication Year 2018
Title Are hatchery-reared Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout effective predators on juvenile native fish?
DOI 10.1002/nafm.10216
Authors David L. Ward, Rylan Morton-Starner, Benjamin Vaage
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
Index ID 70201571
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center