Post-stocking movement and survival of hatchery-reared bloater (Coregonus hoyi) reintroduced to Lake Ontario
acoustic telemetry, cisco, diel vertical migration, reintroduction, stocking
Determining the movement and fate of fishes post-stocking is challenging due to the difficulty in monitoring them, particularly immediately after release. Bloater (Coregonus hoyi; Salmonidae) is a deepwater cisco that has been extirpated from Lake Ontario for several decades and is presently the focus of binational restoration stocking efforts; however, there is limited information to evaluate the efficacy of these efforts. The aim of this study was to examine the initial post-release survival, 3D movement, and behaviour of hatchery-reared bloater stocked in Lake Ontario to expand knowledge of post-stocking ecology of fish and inform stocking practices for deepwater ciscoes. In total, 74 hatchery-reared bloater were tagged with acoustic transmitters with depth and temperature sensors in 2016, 2017, and 2018 and passively monitored on an array of 105 69-kHz acoustic receivers deployed in north-eastern Lake Ontario. Several spatial metrics analysed movements after release to investigate immediate post-stocking survival and behaviour for the first time in a pelagic freshwater forage fish. Estimated survival for tagged bloater was low (≤42%) and detection periods of live bloater ranged from 0.2 to 12.1 days (mean ± SD: 2.9 ± 2.9 days). Following release, tagged bloater dispersed quickly and exhibited an association with deeper water (>40 m). Despite overlap in space use for some bloater, there was no evidence of schooling behaviour. Bloater underwent extensive diel vertical migration from near bottom to within metres of the surface. These results demonstrated that, despite high initial mortality, some hatchery-reared bloater survived the initial stress of release and displayed characteristic behaviour of the species. This study demonstrated the value of acoustic telemetry in restoration efforts and revealed survival and behaviour of bloater that has never been observed at this resolution, providing novel information for the management of reintroduced species. Establishment of a self-sustaining population of bloater will help restore fish native to Lake Ontario thus increasing prey fish diversity, improving ecological integrity and resilience, and serving as a model for the reintroduction and management of other native species throughout the Great Lakes.
Klinard, Natalie V.; Matley, Jordan K.; Halfyard, Edmund A.; Connerton, Michael; Johnson, Timothy B.; and Fisk, Aaron T.. (2020). Post-stocking movement and survival of hatchery-reared bloater (Coregonus hoyi) reintroduced to Lake Ontario. Freshwater Biology, 65 (6), 1073-1085.