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Evidence of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) spawning and spawning habitat use in the Dog River, Lake Superior

Jones, Nicholas E., Parna, Michael, Parna, Sarah, Chong, Steve
Journal of Great Lakes research 2018
Salvelinus namaycush, eggs, estuaries, fish, gravel, habitat preferences, lakes, microhabitats, rivers, spawning, Lake Superior, Ontario
Lake trout spawn primarily in lakes, and the few river-spawning populations that were known in Lake Superior were believed to be extirpated. We confirmed spawning by lake trout in the Dog River, Ontario, during 2013–2016 by the collection of and genetic identification of eggs, and we describe spawning meso- and microhabitat use by spawning fish. Between 2013 and 2016, a total of 277 lake trout eggs were collected from 39 of 137 sampling locations in the river. The majority of eggs (220) were collected at the transition between the estuary and the river channel crossing the beach. Lake trout eggs were most often located near the downstream end of pools in areas characterized by rapid changes in depth or slope, coarse substrates, and increased water velocities, where interstitial flows may occur. Depths in wadeable areas where eggs were found averaged 0.9 m (range: 0.4 to 1.3 m) and substrate sizes consisted of large gravel, cobble, and boulder; comparable to spawning characteristics noted in lakes. Water velocities averaged 0.66 m·s⁻¹ (range: 0.33 to 1.7 m³·s⁻¹) at mid-depth. This information on spawning habitat could be used to help locate other remnant river-spawning populations and to restore river-spawning lake trout and their habitat in rivers that previously supported lake trout in Lake Superior. The Dog River population offers a unique opportunity to understand the ecology of a river spawning lake trout population.