Many coastal embayments in the Laurentian Great Lakes have been subjected to extensive human physical modification and pollution that has led to the loss of freshwater biodiversity. For example, Hamilton Harbour is a large coastal embayment situated at the western end of Lake Ontario, with a long history of industrial and urban development that has resulted in the loss and degradation of aquatic habitat and the extirpation of several fish species. To restore the fish community in Hamilton Harbour, several attempts have been made to increase apex predator biodiversity by reintroducing native walleye (Sander vitreus). To assess how reintroduced (i.e., stocked) walleye use Hamilton Harbour, we used acoustic telemetry to characterize the residency of individuals within the boundaries of the harbour as well as their seasonal space use, with a focused interest on the spring spawning period. During the 1 yr tracking period tagged walleye spent an average of 357 days (range 135–365 days) within the harbour. Most individuals (12/15) remained within the harbour during the entire spring spawning period, and over half of the tagged fish departed (n = 7) at the end of summer and beginning of fall. Core use areas appeared to gradually shift more easterly as the seasons progressed from winter to summer. Results from this study indicate that stocked fish are resident within Hamilton Harbour for most of the year, including the reproductive period, which suggests that stocking efforts to re-establish walleye populations may be an effective restoration strategy if recruitment is successful.

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Journal of Great Lakes Research
Department of Biology

Brooks, J.L. (J. L.), Midwood, J.D. (J. D.), Gutowsky, L.F.G. (L. F.G.), Boston, C.M. (C. M.), Doka, S.E. (S. E.), Hoyle, J.A. (J. A.), & Cooke, S.J. (2018). Spatial ecology of reintroduced walleye (Sander vitreus) in Hamilton Harbour of Lake Ontario. Journal of Great Lakes Research. doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2018.11.011