Life History Migrations of Adult Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in the Upper Yellowstone River


Brian D. Ertel, Thomas E. McMahon, Todd M. Koel, Robert E. Gresswell, Jason C. Burckhardt


North American Journal of Fisheries Management


Knowledge of salmonid life history types at the watershed scale is increasingly recognized as a cornerstone for effective management. In this study, we used radiotelemetry to characterize the life history movements of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri in the upper Yellowstone River, an extensive tributary that composes nearly half of the drainage area of Yellowstone Lake. In Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout have precipitously declined over the past 2 decades primarily due to predation from introduced Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush. Radio tags were implanted in 152 Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, and their movements monitored over 3 years. Ninety-six percent of tagged trout exhibited a lacustrine-adfluvial life history, migrating upstream a mean distance of 42.6 km to spawn, spending an average of 24 d in the Yellowstone River before returning to Yellowstone Lake. Once in the lake, complex postspawning movements were observed. Only 4% of radio-tagged trout exhibited a fluvial or fluvial-adfluvial life history. Low prevalence of fluvial and fluvial-adfluvial life histories was unexpected given the large size of the upper river drainage. Study results improve understanding of life history diversity in potamodromous salmonids inhabiting relatively undisturbed watersheds and provide a baseline for monitoring Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout response to management actions in Yellowstone Lake.



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