Quantifying the spatial structure of invasive lake trout in Yellowstone Lake to improve suppression efficacy

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Conserving Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout by suppressing invasive Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake is a high priority for Yellowstone National Park natural-resource managers. Insight into the spatial structure of Lake Trout throughout the lake will help increase the efficacy of the Lake Trout suppression program. Lake Trout (N = 578) were surgically implanted with dual acoustic and radio transmitters from 2015 through 2017. Mobile acoustic (boat) and radio (fixed-wing aircraft) telemetry surveys were performed to identify aggregations of Lake Trout. Telemetry surveys occurred during the spawning period (autumn) in 2016 and during the summer and spawning period in 2017. Lake Trout exhibited distinct aggregations during the summer and spawning period. Lake Trout aggregated at nine locations during the summer 2017 and were most frequently located in the West Thumb. Lake Trout aggregated at 22 locations during the spawning period including 12 previously undocumented putative spawning locations. Two aggregations in the West Thumb, Carrington Island and Anglers Bluff, had the highest relative densities of Lake Trout. Aggregations during the summer were generally farther from shore, greater in depth, and more dispersed than aggregations during the spawning period. Targeting locations of Lake Trout, as identified through telemetry, with gill nets was an effective strategy for increasing catch-per-unit-effort. The Lake Trout suppression program is probably altering the behavior of Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake, which explains the high number of spawning locations and low spawning site fidelity relative to other research studies on Lake Trout spawning behavior. This study provided valuable insight into the spatial structure of Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake. The areas Lake Trout aggregated will continue to be targeted by gillnetting and novel embryo suppression methods.




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