Dispersal, Mortality, and Predation on Recently-stocked Rainbow Trout in Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee

Forty-four hatchery-raised rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were implanted with ultrasonic tags and stocked into Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee, and tracked at least once per week for eight weeks to describe post-stocking dispersal rates, movements, and habitat use. Dispersal followed a three-stage pattern characterized by rapid movement away from each stocking site during the first week, relatively little dispersal during the next three weeks, and further dispersion during the final four weeks that fish were tracked. Rainbow trout exhibited a strong affinity for coves and were rarely encountered in the main channel. Tagged fish stocked in March exhibited lower mortality (Zweekly = 0.027) than those stocked in January (Zweekly = 0.062) during the first eight weeks post-stocking. Diets of potential predators in Dale Hollow Lake were examined. Walleye (Sander vitreus), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), largemouth bass (M. salmoides), and holdover rainbow trout all preyed on recently stocked trout. Larger walleye were more likely to prey on stocked rainbow trout, and walleye of all sizes tended to prey on the smaller trout in each stocked cohort. Walleye were more likely to feed on rainbow trout during January than March. Effective stocking strategies should focus on reducing predation by stocking larger rainbow trout or by stocking when predation risk is minimized (i.e., March).

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