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Exploring the contemporary relationship between predator and prey in a significant, reintroduced Lahontan Cutthroat Trout population

April 16, 2021

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (LCT) Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi have experienced some of the most marked reductions in abundance and distribution among Cutthroat Trout subspecies. The population of LCT in Pyramid Lake, Nevada has returned from the brink of extirpation, and although it is highly managed via stocking, the population is thriving and has recently started to reproduce naturally. Our objectives were to determine (1) whether predator and prey remain tightly coupled, (2) whether LCT are food limited, and (3) the status of the LCT population with regard to the potential prey-based contemporary carrying capacity. We used a multifaceted approach, including intensive field sampling of fish, bioenergetics modeling, cohort reconstruction, and comparisons of prey availability to consumption. We estimated that the average population of LCT in Pyramid Lake is 1.2 million, average annual stocking is 650,000, and the number of fish angled ranges from 5,000 to 14,000 per year, with a 90% release rate. Driven by seasonal and size variation in consumption, individual annual consumption by LCT varied from 667 to 992 g/year for small LCT (200–400 mm TL) and from 2,388 to 3,057 g/year for large LCT (>400 mm TL). Lahontan Cutthroat Trout are consuming, on average, 14–63% of the standing crop of Tui Chub Siphateles bicolor annually, indicating that LCT are currently not exceeding their prey-based carrying capacity. The LCT in Pyramid Lake remain tightly coupled to their primary native prey, Tui Chub, despite considerable changes to the ecosystem; therefore, managing for a robust population of LCT translates largely to managing for forage fish. This supply-versus-demand issue is of particular concern for Pyramid Lake given that the density of Tui Chub may be declining concordant with declining lake elevation. Given the conservation importance of this LCT population, careful monitoring is critical; however, “predation inertia” indicates that effective short-term management in response to fluctuations in forage fishes is likely possible.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Exploring the contemporary relationship between predator and prey in a significant, reintroduced Lahontan Cutthroat Trout population
DOI 10.1002/tafs.10291
Authors Phaedra E. Budy, Nicholas A. Heredia, Gary P. Thiede, Erik Horgen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Index ID 70228945
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle

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