Brook Trout Removal as a Conservation Tool to Restore Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout

Nonnative brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis are abundant in Pine Creek and its main tributary, Bogard Spring Creek, California. These creeks historically provided the most spawning and rearing habitat for endemic Eagle Lake rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss aquilarum. Three-pass electrofishing removal was conducted in 2007–2009 over the entire 2.8-km length of Bogard Spring Creek to determine whether brook trout removal was a feasible restoration tool and to document the life history characteristics of brook trout in a California meadow stream. After the first 2 years of removal, brook trout density and biomass were severely reduced from 15,803 to 1,192 fish/ha and from 277 to 31 kg/ha, respectively. Average removal efficiency was 92–97%, and most of the remaining fish were removed in the third year. The lack of a decrease in age-0 brook trout abundance between 2007 and 2008 after the removal of more than 4,000 adults in 2007 suggests compensatory reproduction of mature fish that survived and higher survival of age-0 fish. However, recruitment was greatly reduced after 2 years of removal and is likely to be even more depressed after the third year of removal assuming that immigration of fish from outside the creek continues to be minimal. Brook trout condition, growth, and fecundity indicated a stunted population at the start of the study, but all three features increased significantly every year, demonstrating compensatory effects. Although highly labor intensive, the use of electrofishing to eradicate brook trout may be feasible in Bogard Spring Creek and similar small streams if removal and monitoring are continued annually and if other control measures (e.g., construction of barriers) are implemented. Our evidence shows that if brook trout control measures continue and if only Eagle Lake rainbow trout are allowed access to the creek, then a self-sustaining population of Eagle Lake rainbow trout can become reestablished ​
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