Earning Their Stripes: The Potential of Tiger Trout and Other Salmonids as Biological Controls of Forage Fishes in a Western Reservoir

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

North American Journal of Fisheries Management






John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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Tiger trout, salmonids, reservoir, salmo trutta

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Maintaining a balance between predator and prey populations can be an ongoing challenge for fisheries managers, especially in managing artificial ecosystems such as reservoirs. In a high-elevation Utah reservoir, the unintentional introduction of the Utah Chub Gila atraria and its subsequent population expansion prompted managers to experimentally shift from exclusively stocking Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss to also stocking tiger trout (female Brown Trout Salmo trutta × male Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis) and Bonneville Cutthroat Trout O. clarkii utah (hereafter, Cutthroat Trout) as potential biological control agents. We measured a combination of diet, growth, temperature, and abundance and used bioenergetic simulations to quantify predator demand versus prey supply. Utah Chub were the predominant prey type for tiger trout, contributing up to 80% of the diet depending on the season. Utah Chub represented up to 70% of the total diet consumed by Cutthroat Trout. Although Utah Chub dominated the fish biomass in the reservoir, we still estimated abundances of 238,000 tiger trout, 214,000 Cutthroat Trout, and 55,000 Rainbow Trout. Consequently, when expanded to the population level of each predator, tiger trout and Cutthroat Trout consumed large quantities of Utah Chub on an annual basis: tiger trout consumed 508,000 kg (2,660 g/predator) of the standing prey population, and Cutthroat Trout consumed an estimated 322,000 kg (1,820 g/predator). The estimated combined consumption by Cutthroat Trout and tiger trout exceeded the estimate of Utah Chub annual production. As such, our results suggest that the high rates of piscivory exhibited by Cutthroat Trout and tiger trout in artificial lentic ecosystems are likely sufficient to effectively reduce the overall abundance of forage fishes and to prevent forage fishes from dominating fish assemblages. Collectively, this research provides the first documented findings on tiger trout ecology and performance, which will aid managers in designing and implementing the best stocking strategy to optimize sport fish performance, control undesirable forage fish, and enhance and maintain angler satisfaction.

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