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Developing Recreational Harvest Regulations for an Unexploited Lake Trout Population

Lenker, Melissa A., Weidel, Brian C., Jensen, Olaf P., Solomon, Christopher T.
North American Journal of Fisheries Management 2016 v.36 no.2 pp. 385-397
Salvelinus namaycush, fish, lakes, life history, risk assessment, simulation models, sport fishing, New York
Developing fishing regulations for previously unexploited populations presents numerous challenges, many of which stem from a scarcity of baseline information about abundance, population productivity, and expected angling pressure. We used simulation models to test the effect of six management strategies (catch and release; trophy, minimum, and maximum length limits; and protected and exploited slot length limits) on an unexploited population of Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush in Follensby Pond, a 393-ha lake located in New York State’s Adirondack Park. We combined field and literature data and mark–recapture abundance estimates to parameterize an age-structured population model and used the model to assess the effects of each management strategy on abundance, catch per unit effort (CPUE), and harvest over a range of angler effort (0–2,000 angler-days/year). Lake Trout density (3.5 fish/ha for fish ≥ age 13, the estimated age at maturity) was similar to densities observed in other unexploited systems, but growth rate was relatively slow. Maximum harvest occurred at levels of effort ≤ 1,000 angler-days/year in all the scenarios considered. Regulations that permitted harvest of large postmaturation fish, such as New York’s standard Lake Trout minimum size limit or a trophy size limit, resulted in low harvest and high angler CPUE. Regulations that permitted harvest of small and sometimes immature fish, such as a protected slot or maximum size limit, allowed high harvest but resulted in low angler CPUE and produced rapid declines in harvest with increases in effort beyond the effort consistent with maximum yield. Management agencies can use these results to match regulations to management goals and to assess the risks of different management options for unexploited Lake Trout populations and other fish species with similar life history traits. Received May 18, 2015; accepted November 30, 2015 Published online March 31, 2016