The Distribution, Growth and Survival of Hatchery Reared vs. Wild Coastal Cutthroat Trout in Tidal Waters Near the Englishman River and Nile Creek.

 

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Of all the Pacific salmon, we know the least about the general biology and ecology of cutthroat trout.  There appear to be many reasons for this, chief among them are that they are not commercially important and that they tend to occur in small populations (which do not support major sport fisheries).  Many of the most basic population biology questions remain largely unaddressed, including local distributions, population status, and life histories. In this area, where status of stocks is better documented, habitat problems and urban development appear to be the greatest threat to the species.

Anadromous coastal cutthroat trout have been designated as a species of management  concern   due to the nature and extent of population declines and reduced habitat productivity.  Numerous streams, estuaries and beaches that previously supported significant populations of  this species have been abandoned by anglers and the remaining fisheries are conducted in a small fraction of the once productive area.

In response to the high demand for stream and beach fisheries, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. will begin to stock some high priority areas with anadromous cutthroat trout. These areas need to be constantly monitored and Vancouver Island University Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture faculty, students, and volunteers monitor two high priority areas, specifically the Englishman River estuary (stocked and wild fish) and the Nile Creek estuary and surrounding area (wild fish only).

Vancouver Island University Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture faculty, students, and volunteers conduct field assessments of the quality and quantity of enhanced vs. wild anadromous cutthroat trout in the tidal water areas of two high priority estuaries on southern Vancouver Island, the Englishman River and Nile Creek. Each area is sampled once/week through the year.  Information collected and other observations includes:

  • approximate capture location
  • weather and sea conditions
  • obvious presence or absence of prey species (e.g. salmon fry, sandlance, stickleback, juvenile herring, or invertebrates)
  • time of capture (each fish)
  • stage of tide (ebb, flood, height can be back-calculated from the time observations)
  • current (basically present/absent, and relative speed)
  • length and weight
  • scale samples (from selected fish), this will allow us to age the fish
  • external parasite load, if any (we may collect some for ID by a Parasitologist).
  • capture of other species (sculpin, sticklebacks, flounder, coho , pinks, Chinook (adults or juveniles)
  • other observations (e.g. positive ID of cutthroat hooked, but not landed or cutthroat that jump in front of the anglers but are not captured, etc.)
  • obvious hook scars from previous encounters
  • hooking location and bleeding (if any)
  • number of other anglers encountered on each trip
  • fly/lure

Vancouver Island University faculty and students and Biologists from the Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection to will use this information to:

  • measure the growth of stocked fish,
  • calculate catch per unit effort,
  • assess the status and distribution of wild populations in the area;
  • and to develop a detailed anadromous cutthroat revitalization strategy for each stream which may include hatchery supplementation.
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