Combination of acoustic telemetry and side-scan sonar provides insight for lake trout Salvelinus namaycush suppression in a submontane lake

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Date

2021

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science

Abstract

Expansion of an invasive Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush population in Swan Lake, Montana threatens a core area population of Bull Trout Salvelinus confluentus in Montana. Given the increased efficacy of suppression using novel embryo suppression methods, there is renewed interest in Lake Trout suppression in Swan Lake. The specific questions of this study were: 1) where are Lake Trout spawning, 2) where are the most used spawning sites, 3) what is the amount of spawning habitat, 4) does the estimated spawning area differ between estimates from telemetry locations and side-scan sonar imagery of suitable spawning substrate, and 5) how much phosphorous and nitrogen would be added to Swan Lake if carcass-analog pellet treatments were implemented? Acoustic tags were implanted in 85 Lake Trout in July and August of 2018 and 2019. Nightly tracking efforts during September, October, and November of 2018 and 2019 resulted in 1,744 relocations for 49 individual Lake Trout. Kernel-density analysis was used to evaluate Lake Trout aggregation locations identifying 10 distinct spawning sites -- corroborating previous studies. Visual observation of Lake Trout embryos confirmed spawning at three sites with the remaining seven sites considered to be unconfirmed spawning sites. All confirmed spawning sites were located in the littoral zone along areas of steep bathymetric relief and were the most used across both spawning seasons. In 2019, side-scan sonar imaging was used to classify and quantify the total area of suitable spawning substrate, which comprised 12.8% of the total surface area estimated for confirmed sites and 11.4% for unconfirmed spawning sites. Simultaneous treatment of all confirmed and unconfirmed spawning sites would require 205,709 + or - 86 kg of carcass-analog pellet material, resulting in 370.4 + or - 0.2 kg of phosphorous and 7,487.9 + or - 3.1 kg of nitrogen inputs to Swan Lake. Thus, pellet treatment would increase the Carlson's trophic state index (TSI) values from 20.8 to 27.7 for total phosphorous, and from 22.1 to 26.2 for total nitrogen. Based on a TSI threshold value of < 40 for an oligotrophic lake, the use of carcass-analog pellets could be a feasible addition to renewed Lake Trout suppression efforts in Swan Lake.

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