Little is currently known about the population biology of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) that spawn in Pennsylvania's Lake Erie tributaries or the role of natural reproduction in supporting this fishery despite its popularity and importance. The goal of this study was to describe the population characteristics of steelhead spawning runs in Crooked Creek, Godfrey Run, and Trout Run, three Pennsylvania Lake Erie tributaries that are annually stocked with 80,000 to 200,000 yearling steelhead. From fall 1997 to spring 1999, returning adult steelhead were sampled during both fall and spring spawning runs using seines and backpack electrofishing gear. Sex was determined using external characteristics, total length was measured, and a scale sample was collected from each fish. Scales were analyzed to determine age, life history patterns, and relative contributions of wild and hatchery-reared fish to seasonal spawning runs. Male steelhead dominated sex ratios in both Godfrey Run and Trout Run during both seasons, while female steelhead were more prevalent in Crooked Creek. Stream-age 1 steelhead were predominant in both fall and spring runs in all three streams. During both seasons in all streams, the majority of males returned after spending only one summer in Lake Erie while most female steelhead returned at lake-age-2. The relative contribution of wild steelhead to Pennsylvania spawning runs was minimal in all three streams for both seasons. As a result, future success of Pennsylvania's steelhead fishery will likely require the continuation of annual tributary stocking of steelhead smolts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science