Indexed on: 30 Apr '17Published on: 19 Apr '17Published in: Ecology of Freshwater Fish
Fidelity to spawning habitats can maximise reproductive success of fish by synchronising movements to sites of previous recruitment. To determine the role of reproductive fidelity in structuring walleye Sander vitreus populations in the Laurentian Great Lakes, we used acoustic telemetry combined with Cormack–Jolly–Seber capture–recapture models to estimate spawning site fidelity and apparent annual survival for the Tittabawassee River in Lake Huron and Maumee River in Lake Erie. Walleye in spawning condition were tagged from the Tittabawassee River in Lake Huron and Maumee River in Lake Erie in 2011–2012. Site fidelity and apparent annual survival were estimated from return of individuals to the stream where tagged. Site fidelity estimates were higher in the Tittabawassee River (95%) than the Maumee River (70%) and were not related to sex or fish length at tagging. Apparent annual survival of walleye tagged in the Tittabawassee did not differ among spawning seasons but was higher for female than male walleye and decreased linearly as fish length increased. Apparent annual survival of walleye tagged in the Maumee River did not differ among spawning seasons but was higher for female walleye than male walleye and increased linearly as fish length increased. Greater fidelity of walleye tagged in the Tittabawassee River than walleye tagged in the Maumee River may be related to the close proximity to the Maumee River of other spawning aggregations and multiple spawning sites in Lake Erie. As spawning site fidelity increases, management actions to conserve population structure require an increasing focus on individual stocks.