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Evidence of spawning by lake trout Salvelinus namaycush on substrates at the base of large boulders in northern Lake Huron

November 27, 2020

Identification of lake trout spawning sites has focused on cobble substrates associated with bathymetric relief (e.g., ‘contour’ or ‘slope’ along reefs), but this ‘model’ may be narrow in scope. Previous telemetry work conducted near Drummond Island, USA, Lake Huron, identified egg presence in substrates at the base of large boulders (>1 m diameter); however, the extent of this phenomenon was unknown. Telemetry data paired with multi-beam bathymetry identified a 0.63 km2 area used by lake trout characterized by low bathymetric relief and numerous (~269) large boulders (>1 m diameter) with small-diameter substrates at their bases. Diver surveys revealed egg presence at all 40 boulders surveyed, exclusively associated with clean gravel-cobble (0.6–42 cm) substrates in undercut areas beneath overhanging edges of boulders and in narrow spaces between adjacent boulders. Egg presence was not associated with boulder or substrate physical characteristics which highlighted the possible importance of interstitial currents. Successful incubation in these habitats was inferred by capture of free embryos and post-embryos the following spring using traps and an electrofishing ROV although at lower densities than at popular spawning habitats nearby (1–3 km away). Free embryos and post-embryos were also caught where eggs were not observed the previous fall including unexpectedly on top of boulders which suggested that post-hatch stages may move more than previously thought. Extensive use of boulder-associated habitats for spawning, egg incubation, and early growth suggested this undescribed habitat type may provide an unanticipated contribution to total available lake trout spawning habitat and recruitment in the Great Lakes.

Publication Year 2020
Title Evidence of spawning by lake trout Salvelinus namaycush on substrates at the base of large boulders in northern Lake Huron
DOI 10.1016/j.jglr.2020.09.015
Authors Steve A. Farha, Thomas Binder, Charles R. Bronte, Daniel B. Hayes, John Janssen, J. Ellen Marsden, Stephen Riley, Charles C. Krueger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Great Lakes Research
Index ID 70240902
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center